Montana

Feb 22, 2013 7:38 PM by Katy Harris - MTN News

Rising water in old mining tunnels near Berkeley Pit could mean loss of resources

BUTTE - The silver and gold ore that still lies underneath the Butte hill has a boundary that cuts off valuable resources at a certain depth.

Mine tunnels near the Berkeley Pit and at the same elevation are most likely filled with water after the first 1,000 feet. The tunnels below the pit are submerged in water.

As the Berkeley Pit water rises, the water in the nearby mining tunnels will rise because the camp is interconnected.

The Butte Silver Bow reclamation manager says the pit will be held at a steady state elevation at one point, and once that's reached the water in the mining tunnels won't rise any more.

The rising water could mean restricted access to resources.

"We are losing opportunities for future mining. If anybody wanted to mine now they would be restricted to above the water level because you'd have to de-water the entire Berkeley Pit and all of the underground works to go any deeper," says Butte Silver Bow Reclamation Manager Tom Malloy.

In the 1980s, a camera was sent below the water level to check out the submerged mining tunnels.

The video showed that the wood frame work in the tunnels was well preserved even in water.

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