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By Duncan Adams, Helena Independent Record

Montana Tunnels Mining filed a voluntary petition Monday seeking Chapter 11 federal bankruptcy protection.

The filing was reminiscent for many observers of mining company bankruptcies in Montana in years past and the prospect of taxpayers getting stuck with reclamation costs.

The bankruptcy filing in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court District of Montana again heightens concerns about whether Montana Tunnels will pay for the reclamation at its dormant open-pit mine near Jefferson City in Jefferson County.

“This was, unfortunately, completely predictable, and really appalling,” said Derf Johnson, deputy director of the Montana Environmental Information Center.

Bonnie Gestring, Northwest Program Director for Earthworks, offered a similar observation.

“Unfortunately, we’re not surprised by these developments,” she said. “We’ve been worried about the deteriorating conditions at Montana Tunnels and the ongoing harm to Clancy Creek for some time.”

Montana Tunnels reported in company filings that it had assets of between $10 million and $50 million and liabilities between $50 million and $100 million.

The list of creditors includes the Jefferson County Treasurer’s Office, Montana DEQ, at least three Montana-based businesses, the Montana Department of Revenue, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service and more.

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