What would the economy of the state of Montana look like if the eight largest hard rock mines – producing copper, palladium, gold, talc, cement and other products and materials – did not exist? That was a question posed in a recent study produced by the Bureau of Business and Economic Research. It addressed – both for existing and for proposed new metal mines – the contributions made by hard rock mining to jobs, income, spending, tax receipts and population in the state.
The conclusion underscored the continuing importance of hard rock mining activities, not only to the economic livelihoods of the communities that are home to the mining operations, but also to the health of the state economy as a whole.
Last year, Montana’s general fund revenues were extraordinarily weak. General fund collections – encompassing the entire suite of state taxes and fees not earmarked for specific use – managed to grow by just $20 million in 2017. On a base of $2.1 billion, that was roughly a tenth of a percentage point growth. The question was why these revenues were not coming in as they should have been?