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State Reports Progress On Removal Of Parrot Tailings In Butte

The tailings dump for the Parrot smelter, built in 1881. The smelter sat on the site of the current Butte Civic Center.
The tailings dump for the Parrot smelter, built in 1881. The smelter sat on the site of the current Butte Civic Center.

Progress is being reported this week on a long-delayed effort to remove a 50-foot-deep pile of smelter waste in the middle of Butte.

The State of Montana has signed an agreement with Montana Resources that will allow for the removal of the Parrot tailings behind the Butte Civic Center:

"It is nice to finally have some clarity in this arena," says Harley Harrison, leader of the state Justice Department’s Natural Resource Damage Program.

He’s talking about a deal to move roughly 350,000 cubic yards of soil polluted by mining to Montana Resources property elsewhere in Butte:

"The overburden is going to be either reused on site or else used to construct a cap on another adjacent portion of land that’s also part of the historic Parrot smelter," Harrison adds. "The tailings themselves will be taken by the state contractor and placed uphill and a little bit behind the Montana Resources offices."

One big roadblock remains before the tailings removal project can begin in earnest. Butte-Silver Bow County’s vehicle maintenance shops sit over about half the site.

Attempts to move the shops have been met with local resistance and is still not resolved.

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