HELENA — A new exploration project is being proposed at the site of the former Zortman mine. The proposed project by Blue Arc LLC is not a full-scale mine and the operator would have to apply for a separate permit and undergo a separate environmental analysis should they wish to operate a full-scale mine.
The Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is currently taking public comment on a draft environmental assessment for the proposed exploration project near Zortman in Phillips County.
The proposed exploration project includes excavating one trench, approximately 350 square feet and 25 feet deep, to extract a 125-ton bulk sample for metallurgical testing. The project includes construction of an access road that would be left in place after project completion for use by the landowner. The entire project is anticipated to last approximately 10 days and disturb 0.18 acres. DEQ would require all disturbances except the road to be reclaimed.
The proposed exploration project would take place within the former mine operation boundary and a small area would be located within a reclaimed area of the former mine.
Pegasus Gold Corp. mined near Zortman from 1979 to 1996. The company used cyanide leaching to extract gold from the rock. Pegasus declared bankruptcy in 1998 and the state was left with a Superfund site that has cost more than $100 million to clean up.
This is the second proposed exploration project in this area. DEQ released a final environmental assessment in February of 2021 for a proposed exploration project from Blue Arc. That project would extract a 1,000-ton bulk sample and disturb 1.4 acres. The applicant is required to post bond before receiving a license to begin exploration activities. At this time, DEQ has not received bond for that project.
Both projects are considered in the cumulative impacts section of the new assessment.
DEQ prepared a draft assessment to analyze potential impacts from the proposed exploration project. DEQ will accept public comments on the draft until 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022. To submit substantive comments or view the document, visit the DEQ website.