Butte mining company Montana Resources now has the go-ahead from state officials to expand its waste storage facility northeast of town and the Berkeley Pit.
The Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) issued its final decision Friday allowing the copper mining company to build the Yankee Doodle Tailings Impoundment 50 feet higher.
"This will allow them to raise the tailings pond and basically continue mining and continue using the Yankee Doodle Tailings pond," says Paul Driscoll with DEQ.
Without the expansion of the site Montana Resources (MR) officials have said they would run out of capacity for waste storage in 2021, which would prevent future mining.
MR's VP of Environmental Affairs Mark Thompson says the expansion of the tailings facility buys the mine 10 more years of operation.
MR applied for a permit to expand the site in 2017.
Driscoll, with DEQ, says it is possible the company may wish to again expand the waste storage pond to continue the life of its open pit copper-molybdenum mine in the future. That would require another round of environmental impact analysis and public comment.
Earlier this year, Montana DEQ announced that the current request to expand the tailings site wouldn’t impact local groundwater.
The tailings facility is also part of a bigger Superfund site which includes the Berkeley Pit. The decision announced Friday requires MR to discuss options for reclaiming Yankee Doodle more quickly than the company originally planned with its other Superfund partners.