A new study by the Bureau of Business and Economic Research helps put some hard numbers to the economic impact of hardrock mining in the state of Montana. Bureau Director Patrick Barkey explains.

"We took a look at the contribution made by the eight largest hardrock operations in the state of Montana, which is a small number of companies, but a pretty big economic footprint," Barkey said. "We found that those mines, which mine copper, palladium and concrete products, jointly support over 12,000 jobs across the state. Those jobs pay an average of $86,000 a year in earnings for the workers."

The study also looked at the economic potential of proposed mines if they were opened up.

"We looked at the three proposed mines, the Rock Creek, Montanore and Black Butte mines," Barkey said. "We looked at a scenario where those were fully developed and became operational. That would add, roughly speaking, another 3,200 jobs to the state economy and more than $200 million in personal income within the first five years of operation."

For some perspective, the average earnings for jobs in Montana is just over $40,000 per year, which means jobs in the mining industry are paying nearly double what most in Montana make.