Mineral malfeasance and DiFranco diatribes 

Mineral malfeasance and DiFranco diatribes

Going once, going twice… What happens if you hold an auction for mineral rights and no one bids on 95 percent of the land? And if a district court judge orders all the proceeds held by the state to cover pending cleanup costs at a now-defunct gold mine?

Well, the people and their courts call your bluff. In July, the Colorado-based mining company Canyon Resources announced that private landowners would have the unusual opportunity to preempt an auction of 900,000 acres of mineral rights in western Montana by purchasing those rights for themselves—which would presumably solidify the value of the land—for up to $500 an acre.

Most landowners didn’t blink. If mining presented an actual threat to their land, they understood, then mining would have already taken place. And the price looked downright scandalous when state officials noted that similar mineral rights go for little more than $3 an acre.

In early August—with a perfect poker face—the auctioneer tried to defend Canyon Resources and characterized the offer as a “courtesy,” since the company was offering mineral rights in parcels many times smaller than such properties are ordinarily traded.

In the end, only 40,000 acres of mineral rights sold at an auction held simultaneously in Lewistown and Missoula. As if that wasn’t rejection enough, District Court Judge Wayne Phillips had already clamped down on the proceeds to cover an estimated $12.6 million in potential cleanup costs.

So $12,200 went into court coffers. Phillips was slated to decide whether to continue holding the money on Wednesday. The moral is: If you’re going to play mining poker in Montana, you had better not underestimate the other players.

And the winner is… To those of you who thought we forgot to print the results, we didn’t! To the (hopefully fewer) of you who don’t know which results we’re talking about, we’re talking about last month’s Ani DiFranco “Doodle-a-Do” contest, in which artistically-inclined readers were invited to toss up a new salad on the Righteous Babe’s digitally-kojaked dome.

After long and careful deliberation, the Indy staff came down just slightly in favor of Karlie Olson’s acrobatically corn-rowed “Medusa” design. Olson, therefore, is free to stop by the Indy office (115 South 4th West) at her leisure to pick up a free DVD copy of Render, the feature-length Ani documentary edited by the li’l folkie herself. Second place honors (a free Indy T-shirt, but alas, no free Ani goodies) go to Joe Wagley for his simple and elegant, graphic-novel style entry, which our judges agreed was also the most flattering hairstyle of the three finalists. In third place: Libby Catron’s more literal interpretation of the Medusa look. Congratulations to our winners.

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