Unique abandoned mine clean up efforts to begin in Montana

February 11, 2014

Future West, a nonprofit group, will begin a program to clean up abandoned mine sites with the help of a $50,000 grant from the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation.

The group will help fund the clean up efforts by extracting precious metals from waste rock. The first project will be on North Willow Creek near Pony in Madison County, MT, the Associated Press reported.

The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported that Future West has located about 9,000 abandoned mines sites in southwestern Montana and selected some of them for reclamation attempts as part of the Montana Headwaters Abandoned Mine Reclamation Project.

The idea is that modern technologies can recover gold in rock that previous generations of miners discarded, cleaning up abandoned mines in the process.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, the Craighead Institute, Trout Unlimited and Madison and Jefferson counties are also involved in the project.

"One site in one watershed doesn't define the whole project," spokeswoman Monique DiGiorgio said. "But this will help us figure out the specifics of what the larger project will look like in the future."

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 40 percent of headwater streams are polluted with toxic waste such as lead, arsenic, zinc, mercury and other chemicals from abandoned mines.

It's unclear if Future West's plans can work in cleaning up abandoned mines. The group is trying to raise money for a feasibility study that could cost as much as $300,000.

The Montana Headwaters Abandoned Mine Reclamation Project will need more money to reclaim its first mine, and the group is looking at state lawmakers to appropriate funding, said Dennis Glick of Future West.


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