HELENA, MT — On Wednesday, May 26th, parties received notice that State District Court Judge Mike Menahan ruled that the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has the authority to enforce the state’s “bad actor” law against Hecla Mining Company and its CEO, Phillips S. Baker Jr, for Baker’s affiliation with Pegasus Gold Corporation. In his order, the judge concluded that Montana courts have jurisdiction over Idaho-based Hecla and Baker due to Hecla’s ownership and operation of mining operations in Montana, stating that “Baker has purposefully availed himself of the privilege of mining in Montana, and in doing so has accepted the jurisdiction of Montana courts with respect to that mining activity.”
“This is great news and our hope is that the court will hold companies like Hecla and CEO Phillips Baker accountable for their past actions causing significant contamination to drinking water sources, ceremonial sites, and powwow grounds on the Fort Belknap reservation,” said President Andrew Werk, Jr. of the Fort Belknap Indian Community. “We are faced with continual water quality monitoring with this perpetual nightmare caused by these bad actors. To date DEQ has spent more than $32 million in public funds for clean-up at the Zortman-Landusky mine site.”
The “bad actor” law was enacted in 2001 in the wake of the Pegasus Gold bankruptcy to prevent senior executives and mining companies from receiving a new permit to mine in Montana if they’ve failed to clean-up past operations or reimburse the state for those clean-up costs.