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It’s good to see movement, finally, on the cleanup of the former Asarco lead smelter site in East Helena.

About 5,000 tons of black slag are being shipped to a Canadian company during the next few weeks to see if additional metals can be pulled from the glasslike substance. If Teck Resources Limited can successfully reheat the slag and extract zinc and other metals from it, company officials may agree to additional shipments.

That prospect has raised the eyebrows of many citizens and officials in East Helena, and rightfully so. What once stood as a symbol of prosperity now serves as a stark reminder of the environmental degradation as the blue-collar town transitions into the next phase of its history. And any forward progress to clean up that site is welcomed.

It’s also good to see the county sheriff’s and city police departments make some arrests on the thefts and vandalism lately. We speak for the majority of Helenans when we say, “We’ve had enough!”

Hopefully the teens arrested in both cases are the root of much of it, especially in the widespread thefts from vehicles over the past three months. In that case, three 17-year-olds were arrested for stealing handguns, cameras, DVD players, handheld video games, telephones, camcorders and many more items from unlocked vehicles and garages. The string of thefts began in August and continued until the teens were apprehended on Oct. 13. Thefts occurred in the northern and eastern parts of the valley, in the city of Helena, and in the South Hills, Montana City, East Helena and Great Falls.

Big news broke late last week in the Montana timber industry with the announcement of a potential buyer for Smurfit-Stone Container Corp., the Frenchtown paper mill site that shuttered operations early this year.

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More news will become available in coming weeks, but for now, just the news of the potential sale is a boon for the industry which once boomed in Montana but in the past few years has fallen like a beetle-killed tree.

Smurfit-Stone Container ceased operations in January, putting about 400 people out of work as it worked its way through a Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The company emerged from bankruptcy in June.

While it’s exciting as a potential economic driver in the timber industry, it’s also a bit unsettling that there’s no promise it will be a timber-related sale.

The news would be two thumbs up when, or if, the buyer’s intention is known.

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