Human Health Impacts at Fort Belknap from Gold Mining

This page was written by Erin Klauk as part of the DLESE Community Services Project: Integrating Research in Education.

Assiniboine Mother and Child. Details

The human health effects due to cyanide leach gold mining are not well documented, and this is no exception in Montana. The State of Montana has done no formal studies to specifically study mine-related health effects. Pegasus, the last mining company at Zortman-Landusky, started to fund a health study with the $1.7 million supplemental money from the 1996 settlement, but because the company went bankrupt, the study never occurred (cyanide leach information).

Health problems from asthma and emphysema to thyroid problems and diabetes have been on the rise on the reservation in the past 25 years, especially among children. Other health impacts possibly due to the mining, such as lead poisoning and chemical burns from swimming in the water that flows out of the mining area, have also been reported (A Mountain of Unanswered Questions: Are Health Problems of Reservation Residents Related to the Mines? (more info) ).

Cyanide is known to be lethal to humans in very small quantities, with only a teaspoon of 2% cyanide solution causing death. Because of the number of cyanide spills and accidents, cyanide leach gold mining using large quantities of cyanide to remove gold from ore or crushed rock is creating more and more controversy. There is growing concern about both the environmental impacts and human health risks of using cyanide as a processing agent (More Cyanide Uncertianties: Lessons from the Baia Mare, Romania Spill-Water Quality and Politics).

In addition to physical human health effects, the Assiniboine and Gros Ventre Tribes of Fort Belknap have a strong cultural and spiritual connection with the Little Rockies. Spirit Mountain, which was a mountain peak of cultural significance to the Assiniboine and Gros Ventre people, was destroyed by the mine and replaced by a huge open pit (Case Studies - The Effects of Mining ( This site may be offline. ) ).

Agichide - Assiniboine Tribe. Details

To further investigate human health impacts from gold mining on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, follow the links below.

Resources on the Human Health Impacts on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation

Resources containing information about the human health impacts on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation:



For ideas on how to use these webpages in a classroom, a Study Guide is provided.