How will the Stillwater Mine merger affect Montanans? - KULR8.com | Montana's News Leader | Billings, MT

How will the Stillwater Mine merger affect Montanans?

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MONTANA -

Since the creation of the good neighbor agreement in 2000, Montanans have had the opportunity to play a role in Stillwater Mines' decision making.

If the mines actions could affect the community or the environment, community members had a chance to voice their opinion.

Jerry Iverson with the Northern Plains Council said even though Sibanye Gold is based in South Africa, it won't change the relationship the mines have with the community.

To understand how the merger will affect Montanans, Iverson said it's important to look at the history of the mines.

Johns-Manville Corporation geologists discovered the mines in 1973. Production finally began at the Stillwater Mine in 1986. Iverson said since his involvement in 1988, there have been four or five different owners.

"The change of ownership potential is one of the main reasons we were really clear in the Good Neighbor Agreement to include a section that guarantees the terms of the good neighbor agreement will bind all successors," Iverson said.

In fact, it's not the first time another country has been in control of Stillwater Mine.

In 2003, Russian company Norilsk Nickel became a majority shareholder, owning 55-percent of the company.

"As it turned out, the change of ownership at that time did not influence production or the environmental influences that are of concern to the Good Neighbor Agreement," Iverson said. "So we went through that transition period smoothly."

Norilsk Nickel eventually sold it's share in 2010. But Iverson said the relationship proves the company can operate transparently with a company out of the country.

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