Quietly making an enormous economic boon statewide

Marlo Pronovost
Thursday, March 21, 2019
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Photo by Bud Chenault

 The Nye Valley, in which the Sibanye-Stillwater Nye mine is located.

It’s no secret that the Sibanye-Stillwater mines in Nye and East Boulder — tucked away in the scenic foothills of the Beartooth Mountain front — are financially important to Stillwater and Sweet Grass counties.

Turns out the company is important to the entire state — economically speaking. And to a staggering degree.

According to an independent study conducted by the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Montana, when factoring in all the direct and related jobs created by Sibanye-Stillwater’s presence, plus tax payments, the mine’s financial impact on the state looks something like this:

•Nearly 6,000 jobs (such as government, retail trade, professional technical services, transportation, hotels and food, healthcare, etc).

•$500.9 million in personal income

•$94.7 million in selected tax revenues

•$1,556 million in output

•A population increase of 10,724 people

“When you have a larger economy, you have a larger everything,” study conductor Patrick Barkey told a gathering of guests last Friday at the Anipro Arena near Absarokee at a luncheon hosted by Sibanye-Stillwater.

The purpose of the study was to see what the state would look like without the economic boon the mine brings.

Sibanye-Stillwater’s Vice President of Legal, Environment and Government Affairs Heather McDowell was familiar with Barkey’s work through a different company in the past.

“I found the data and its presentation especially useful for quantifying the relative value of an organization to the surrounding community,” said McDowell. “I wanted to re-create that for us (Sibanye-Stillwater).”

That re-creation, as explained by Barkey, includes the “outsized” contributions of the company on the state as follows:

•The highly mechanized, high value-added nature of the production process, supporting jobs which pay substantially more than the state average.

•The high “made in Montana” component of the company’s basic input, primarily the ore being mined.

•And the significant tax support paid by the company to state and local governments.

In his final report, Barkey notes that the financial impacts identified in the study don’t count the actual economic value of the production of palladium, platinum and other precious metals. The study also does not factor in elements such as cleaner air from reduced emissions of vehicles made possible with catalytic convertors, which are produced with the mine’s product.


The mines employs approximately 1,600 people in a 7-county area with high-paying jobs at the Nye site, the East Boulder site and the Metallurgical Complex in Columbus, commonly referred to as the Smelter. Sibanye-Stillwater’s direct financial contribution is as follows:

•Payroll: $182.8 million

•Total Taxes Paid: $16.5 million

-Property Taxes: $4.69 million

-Metal Mines Gross Proceeds Tax: $5.6 million

-Metal Mines License Tax: $6.2 million

-In Stillwater and Sweet Grass counties: Approximately $4.7 million per county per year

•Total Purchases: $441.7 million

-Goods/services in Montana: $112.2 million

-Goods/services out of state: $329.4 million

•Total Employee Taxes: $44.5 million


The company’s in-direct financial impact is fueled by jobs and taxes that are created by its presence. For example, of the nearly 6,000 jobs attributed to the mines’ presence, only 26 percent of those are actually in mining. The next biggest chunk attributable to the mines are local and state government jobs, which number 1,026, according to the study.

“These impacts are large because the population is larger with Sibanye-Stillwater present in the economy, increasing demand for public services, especially schools and mining industry in general,” wrote Barkey in the report.

Industries identified in the report include government, retail trade, professional and technical services, construction, wholesale trade, health care and social assistance, accommodation and food services, administrative and waste services, manufacturing, transportation and warehouse, arts/entertainment/ recreation and “other services” with the exception of public administration.

All of the direct and indirect jobs attributed to the company calculate to an average yearly earning of $72,626, according to the study. That is well above the state’s average of $44,470.


After Barkey concluded his presentation, representatives of three different organizations gave brief descriptions of what they do and how much Sibanye-Stillwater helps in their efforts.

•The Volunteers of America Northern Rockies spoke of Camp POSTCARD — an annual week-long camp held at the Beartooth Christian Ranch for select fifth and sixth graders from around the state. Law enforcement officers serve as counselors and lead kids in exercises in building leadership, decision-making skills, self-esteem and teamwork.

•The Yellowstone Bighorn Research Association was also represented and spoke about the Red Lodge-based earth sciences education program that serves as training for science teachers. The program has been in existence for more than 80 years.

•In existence in its current form for the last eight years, the Stillwater Valley Watershed Council’s focus is weed control, water quality/quantity and forest health. There are currently 280 due-paying members and Sibanye-Stillwater provides financial help with projects, oversights and some wages, said SVWC coordinator Lindsey Clark.