Montana Public Radio

mining

Ron Burns was among a half dozen people to speak in support of the Black Butte Copper Project during a public meeting in White Sulphur Springs April 30, 2019.
Corin Cates-Carney / Montana Public Radio

Around 60 people sat on the bleachers of the White Sulphur Springs high school gym Tuesday night, 15 miles south of where a proposed underground mine could remove more than 14 million of tons of copper-enriched rock from the earth.

The meeting was the last of three for public input on the state’s draft environmental impact statement on the controversial Black Butte Mining Project, located on private land near the Little Belt Mountains.

Map showing the location of the proposed Black Butte Mine in Montana.
Montana DEQ

The proposed Black Butte copper mine outside White Sulphur Springs is the topic of two public meetings coming up Monday and Tuesday.

Monday evening’s meeting is at Park High School in Livingston. On Tuesday it’s at White Sulphur Springs High. Both meetings start at 6 p.m.

The panel at an April 23, 2019 public meeting on the "proposed plan" included officials from the Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Environmental Quality.
Nora Saks / Montana Public Radio

On Tuesday night, Butte residents got their first chance to respond to the changes EPA wants to make to the Superfund cleanup plan for the Butte Hill and Silver Bow Creek corridor. 

Martin Hestmark with the EPA’s regional office, explained to the 80 or so people at the public meeting at Montana Tech that the crux of the plan focuses on managing stormwater. It runs off the steep Butte Hill and contaminates Silver Bow and Blacktail Creeks in the valley below.

A federal judge in Great Falls Friday said the Trump administration failed to consider the environmental effects of its decision to resume coal sales from federal lands that the Obama administration stopped.
USDA NRCS

A federal judge in Great Falls Friday said the Trump administration failed to consider the environmental effects of its decision to resume coal sales from federal lands that the Obama administration stopped. But the judge stopped short of halting future sales.

Retired hydrogeologist Joe Griffin stands next to a groundwater sampling well in Butte's Upper Silver Bow Creek corridor. January 24, 2018.
Nora Saks / Montana Public Radio

Last week the Environmental Protection Agency released the changes they want to make to the 2006 legal Record of Decision (ROD) which governs the Superfund cleanup of the Butte Hill and Upper Silver Bow Creek corridor.

A state judge has revoked the water permit for a silver and copper mine proposed beneath a northwestern Montana wilderness area.

Judge Kathy Seeley said in a recent order that state officials did not adequately consider potential damage to nearby streams from Hecla Mining Company’s Rock Creek Mine.

This section of Silver Bow Creek that runs through Slag Canyon in Butte will be rerouted in EPA's "proposed plan" for changes to the 2006 Record of Decision.
Nora Saks / Montana Public Radio

Updated and expanded, April 11, 5:45 p.m.

I’m down in the valley at the bottom of the Butte Hill with Nikia Greene, looking at two skinny headwater streams flowing towards Silver Bow Creek and the Clark Fork River downstream.

"This is Blacktail Creek. We’re just above where the confluence of Blacktail Creek and Upper Silver Bow Creek, at the Visitor’s Center. You can see a wetland in the background," Greene says.

In August 1917, Frank Little was the victim of a grisly murder in Butte. Little was a labor organizer who came to Butte to unify and radicalize Butte’s miners in their fight against the Anaconda Mining Company for higher wages and safer working conditions. Most historians believe that the Anaconda Company was behind Little’s killing, but no one knows for sure. A note pinned to his underwear threatened, "Others take notice: first and last warning," along with the numbers 3-7-77, the calling card of frontier vigilantes.

State officials say a proposed expansion to Montana Resources’ tailings impoundment in Butte next to its active copper mine there won’t impact groundwater.

At first glance, Butte, Montana's mutilated industrial landscape is often written-off as an ecological sacrifice-zone. Dirty, ugly as sin and regrettable, but necessary to supply the country with perhaps the most basic necessity of the Electrical Age: Copper. But if you take the time to really look carefully, what you find here will challenge, surprise and even change you.

Take a closer look at the copper that put the Richest Hill on the map; the city's storied past; and the nostalgia and sense of purpose that pervade the Mining City, right now on Richest Hill episode two.

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