Tiffany’s public opposition to mine draws response from Bush administration

Tiffany & Co. is publicly opposing plans for a silver and copper mine beneath a wilderness area in Montana, prompting a forceful response Thursday from the Bush administration, The Associated Press reports.

Tiffany officials paid for an open letter published Wednesday in The Washington Post that asked Forest Service chief Dale Bosworth, whose agency has approved the mine, to block construction, AP reports. The mine would require boring three miles under the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness Area near the Montana-Idaho border.

Mark Rey, an undersecretary of the Department of Agriculture, said the letter signed by Tiffany’s chief executive was filled with errors, though he declined to say what they were, the AP reports.

“I’m guessing this ad in The Washington Post cost upwards of $50,000,” Rey, director of the administration’s forest policy, reportedly said in a telephone interview. “For $49,999.63 less, they could have sent us this letter and given their customers a discount on their products.”

Mining interests also reportedly criticized Tiffany, suggesting the company was responding to threats of boycotts of its jewelry from environmentalists opposed to the mine.

The Forest Service approved the mine in June, but nine environmental groups have sued to stop construction, saying the mine would hurt grizzly bears and bull trout in the area.

Bosworth planned to meet April 15 with Michael J. Kowalski, chairman and chief executive officer of Tiffany, who signed the open letter, Rey reportedly said.

Officials with New York-based Tiffany stood by the contents of the open letter and called for reform in federal mining policy.

“It is by no means the first time that we have communicated with appropriate government officials about our desire to see precious metals and gemstones extracted in environmentally and socially responsible ways,” the company reportedly said. “Our record on that score goes back nearly a decade.”