Tim Leeds Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
The members of Montana’s congressional delegation are continuing to go to bat for a Montana mine that lost a contract with one of the world’s largest auto manufacturers. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., said Wednesday that he has set up an online site at which Montanans can comment on the decision by General Motors Corp. to cancel its contract with Stillwater Mining Co. “GM’s decision doesn’t sit well with me and a lot of other folks,” Tester said in a press release. “Now it’s time for GM and the Auto Task Force to hear directly from people in Montana. They can send their feedback to me online, and I’ll make sure it gets to the people who need to see it.” GM, which accepted federal loans during the bailout of American automotive companies, requested a bankruptcy judge to allow it to cancel its contract for palladium and other precious metals with Stillwater, which operates a mine near Columbus. The federal judge last week approved GM’s request. The metal is used in the manufacTure of catalytic converters, used to reduce emissions of pollution from automobiles. GM said it will continue to buy the metals from suppliers in South Africa and Russia. Stillwater is majority-owned by the same Russian supplier, Norilsk Nickel. Stillwater, which employs some 1,300 people in Montana, estimates it will lose $5 million to $10 million annually because of the lost contract. Tester and Montana’s senior senator, Democrat Max Baucus, last Thursday requested a meeting with the GM leadership to request the company reconsider canceling its Stillwater contract. The company replied Friday that it would not restore the contract. Vice President Robert Socia said in the letter that the company needs less of the precious metals due to slow car sales, and that about half of GM’s purchase of precious metals will continue to come from a Pennsylvania company through an existing contract. Baucus said Wednesday he would continue to try to set up a meeting with GM’s leadership to discuss restoring the Stillwater contract. “This is about Montana jobs, so you bet I'm going to keep fighting,” Baucus said. “I'm looking forward into our next steps to meet with GM leaders and see what can be done to ensure the folks at Stillwater are treated fairly. As I've said before, I'm outraged. Protecting Montanans is my top priority.” Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., also has stepped up for Stillwater. Rehberg announced Tuesday that he had called for a hearing in the House Committee on Natural Resources to examine why GM would void a contract with a domestic mine in favor of foreign mines. That hearing would provide subpoena authority to force GM officials to answer questions about the issue, Rehberg said. Rehberg commented that the automaker is now owned by the American taxpayer and cannot refuse to answer questions put to it by U.S. lawmakers on behalf of their constituents. Rehberg, Baucus and Tester all voted against a bailout of the auto industries in late 2008. Information from the Associated Press was used in this story. On the Net: Tester GM comment site: http://tester.senate. gov/stillwater.