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Mining public opinion


When Colorado-based mining company Canyon Resources announced in March that it had raised over $7 million by selling shares of newly issued stock, some Montanans hoped the company would pay the state the approximately $11 million it owes for cleanup of its Kendall mine site. Instead, Canyon has invested in a public relations campaign for I-147, a ballot initiative that would allow the company to engage in cyanide mining for gold at open-pit sites.

“Canyon has never denied responsibility for reclamation of their [Kendall] site, nor said they wouldn’t pay,” says Tammy Johnson, vice president of the Whitehall-based Environomics, a consulting and public relations firm hired late last year by Canyon Resources to help get I-147 passed.

Then pay already, says Jim Jensen, president of Montanans for Common Sense Mining Laws, which is sponsoring a ballot measure to write the 1998 I-137 cyanide ban into the state Constitution.

“It’s amazing that the Martz administration hasn’t sued Canyon to garnish the money they just raised from their stock sale to protect Montana taxpayers,” Jensen says.

Environomics is collecting money from Canyon for its public relations work, but Johnson won’t say how much. Another public opinion firm, Portland, Ore.-based Moore Information, Inc., is also doing Canyon’s bidding in Montana.

Moore President Bob Moore wouldn’t confirm or deny employment, but Johnson acknowledged that Moore has been hired by Environomics to do related public opinion research.

Jensen’s group is also conducting polling to see if his opponents’ message is working, but he says that effort is minimal in comparison.

Jensen says Canyon Resources denied that Moore was working on cyanide mining issues until recently, when a member of Montanans for Common Sense Mining Laws was asked to join a Moore-sponsored focus group.

An employee of Canyon’s proposed McDonald Gold Project says the reason for Canyon’s ongoing denial is that the focus groups “weren’t put on by Canyon Resources. They were strictly independent—they were put on by Environomics.”

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