April 2019
Volume 71    Issue 4

Managing tailings influenced ground water at the Butte Superfund site

Mining Engineering , 2019, Vol. 71, No. 4, pp. 34-34
Williams, R.D.


In a very real sense, Butte, MT is where the copper came from that won two world wars. The price for that unrestricted mining and smelting of copper came due in 1983 when Butte was declared a Superfund site.

One of the most complex remnants of this mining history is the Parrot Tailings site. The Parrot Smelter operated from 1881 to 1910, moving Upper Silver Bow Creek to the south and depositing approximately 283,000 m3 (370,000 cu yrd) of waste material adjacent to Upper Silver Bow Creek. Additional mixed waste from other processing sites deposited below the Parrot Tailings at the Northside Tailings, Diggings East and Blacktail Creek Berm total approximately 171,000 m3 (224,000 cu yrd) of contaminated material. As part of the Superfund remedy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed leaving all these wastes in place. This proposal prompted a detailed criticism by several geoscientists familiar with the site. The EPA’s 2006 Record of Decision (ROD) did in fact leave these wastes in place which set the stage for a series of studies that continue to refine how best to protect extensive completed Superfund Remediation downstream of Upper Silver Bow Creek. 

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