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US seeks mining withdrawal of polluted Montana site

by Associated Press
| October 10, 2020 12:00 PM

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — U.S. officials in Montana have proposed withdrawing 2,600 acres of a degraded gold mining area to prevent additional mining and protect restoration work.

The Billings Gazette reports in a story on Saturday that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management wants to withdraw the land in the Little Rocky Mountains that contains the Zortman-Landusky Mine.

The land would be withdrawn from mining for 20 years.

"That will allow us to continue with the water work up there and to protect all of the reclamation activity that's been done in the past," said Tom Darrington, field manager for the Bureau of Land Management's Malta office.

Canada-based Pegasus Gold Inc. declared bankruptcy in 1998, leaving cleanup to U.S. taxpayers. About 3,500 acres were withdrawn from mining in 2000 for 20 years, but that's expiring this year.

Darrington said reclamation work has been done to treat toxic runoff that includes heavy metals, nitrates, selenium, and cyanide. For remaining work, the BLM estimates, "reclamation contracts will total about $70 million and involve moving millions of tons of waste rock and treating hundreds of millions of gallons of water over the next 20 years."

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality is partnering with the BLM on the reclamation efforts.