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Montana Resources

Weather Pushes Back Project To Treat Berkeley Pit Water

Mar 14, 2019
The Berkeley pit in Butte, Montana, as seen from above.
NASA (CC-BY-2)

BUTTE, Mont. (AP) — Last month's harsh winter weather has delayed a pilot project that aims to stop the rise of toxic water in Butte's Berkeley Pit.

Montana Resources' Mark Thompson tells The Montanan Standard the mining pit is still frozen over, construction has slowed and the project to treat and discharge the water isn't expected to begin until June.

Mark Mariano does daily waterfowl observations rounds at the Berkeley Pit during migration season. October 2018.
Nora Saks / MTPR

With the fall bird migration now in full swing, the companies in charge of Butte’s Berkeley Pit are using their new and improved scientific bird-hazing program to keep birds away. This week, their program got put to the test.

Two years ago this November, Butte made national headlines when several thousand late-migrating snow geese landed on the Berkeley Pit, exhausted and died. The huge numbers overwhelmed the companies jointly in charge of managing the former open pit copper mine and their usual methods of hazing birds off the massive toxic lake it now contains. 

Jeremy Fleege (L), an environmental engineer with Montana Resources, and Matt Vincent (R), an environmental consultant for MR, at a Stop I-186 event at Butte Brewing Company, October 24, 2018.
Nora Saks / MTPR

Campaign contributions in the fight over Montana ballot initiative 186 have roughly doubled over the last month, most of that money is backing opponents of the initiative’s proposed new regulations on mining. MTPR's Nora saks reports from one of their events in Butte. 

The Parrot Tailings removal project is underway in Butte. September 2018.
Nora Saks

Near Butte’s Civic Center, a massive construction project is going on across the street, in the heart of town. Mammoth excavators gouge out a colossal hole in the ground. Jumbo haul trucks whisk 70 ton loads of chewed-up earth away on repeat.

Yankee Doodle Tailings Impoundment. Butte, MT. Oct. 3, 2018.
Nora Saks / Montana Public Radio

Thursday night, state environmental regulators are holding a public input meeting in Butte on Montana Resource’s application to expand the tailings impoundment next to their active copper mine there.

The viewing stand at the Berkeley Pit in September.
Nora Saks / MTPR

Construction on a long-awaited water treatment facility that will pump and treat toxic water from the Berkeley Pit officially began Monday in Butte.

Butte-Area Surface Water Features And Drainages.
Montana DEQ

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality wants public feedback on a mining company’s year old plan to expand the Yankee Doodle Tailings Impoundment above Butte.

Montana Resources wants to raise the height of the impoundment by 45 to 75 feet over about 336 acres.

Nick Mott

The latest fundraising reports say opponents of a ballot initiative aimed at protecting Montana waterways from mine pollution have raised about 25 percent more money than its supporters, despite not taking in any cash in August.

Governor Bullock shovels the first dirt at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Parrot tailing removal project in Butte, June 2018.
Nora Saks

On Thursday morning, close to a hundred people gathered at an old ball field across from Butte’s Civic Center and circled around haul trucks and excavators fit for Paul Bunyan, if he was a miner, and not a lumberjack.

Both the crowd and the heavy machinery were there for the groundbreaking ceremony on the Parrot tailings removal project.

The Berkeley pit in Butte, Montana, as seen from above.
NASA (CC-BY-2)

The mining companies in charge of the Berkeley Pit are going to start pumping, treating and discharging the water in the former open pit copper mine into Silver Bow Creek five years earlier than planned. Susan Dunlap is reporting that story for the Montana Standard in Butte. She spoke to MTPR's Nora Saks.

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