Highland gold mine south of Butte on track

2012-01-13T13:00:00Z Highland gold mine south of Butte on trackBy TIM TRAINOR Montana Standard The Billings Gazette
January 13, 2012 1:00 pm  • 

BUTTE -- Exploratory drilling returned better than expected results and two companies are on track to begin mining gold from the Highlands, south of Butte, by mid-2012.

Idaho-based Timberline Resources Corp. and Highland Mining released an initial plan on Thursday for the five-acre mine located near Red Mountain, about 15 miles south of town. The two joint partners are targeting production of 400 tons to 500 tons of ore per day for at least the first four years of operation.

How that ore will reach a nearby mill is one of the main questions that have yet to be decided.

Paul Dirckson, president and CEO of Timberline, said the mine and the U.S. Forest Service are still studying three possible haul routes out of the mountains: Basin Creek, Fish Creek and Moose Creek roads.

In early 2011, mine operators expressed support for hauling down Fish Creek and connecting through private property to Highway 2. Although it has not yet been finalized, the ore's final destination may be the Golden Sunlight Mine mill, northeast of Whitehall.

The drill results may lessen the impact on whichever roadway, if any, is chosen.

Timberline initially expected 47 trucks per day would travel along the route, and the company said it would widen the road to a width of at least 16 feet.

Dirckson now believes only 20 of the 30-ton trucks are expected to travel the route each day from Monday through Friday. The mine still plans to improve road conditions, he said.

"We've reduced the amount of material we're going to mine in a day (because of the higher than expected ore quality)," Dirckson said Thursday.

The U.S. Forest Service, which owns the Fish Creek road as well as Basin and Moose Creek roads, has the final say in permitting the haul route. The agency has hosted public meetings in Butte and Whitehall where residents have questioned the safety and environmental effect of using Fish Creek Road. A final decision has not been made.

Other information gleaned from a year of study and exploration has changed aspects of the initial plan by Timberline and Small Mine Development, the company that has been sub-contracted to operate the mine.

Dirckson said miners ran into more underground water than initially expected, and they are now recommending the construction of on-site water treatment facilities that had not been part of the original proposal.

"Now that we can see the water, we've got a better understanding of it," Dirckson said. "That has been the hold up for us, but it doesn't appear that there is anything there that is insurmountable in the permitting process."

He said a treatment facility represents a larger capital investment than first expected, but noted that the project remains economically feasible.

"It's something we're prepared to do, no question," he said.

Warren McCullough, environmental management bureau chief for the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, said his office is working through the permitting process and said they are expecting to receive updated plans from the developers soon.

McCullough said DEQ is specifically concerned with keeping nearby water sources, such as the Basin Creek Reservoir, unpolluted. The reservoir is used a backup source of drinking water for Butte during the peak summer season.

But McCullough said the location of the mine makes it a good candidate to move forward.

"It certainly isn't pristine," said McCullough of the mine site. "It is not on Forest Service land; it has been historically mined ... that area has been hit very hard by beetle kill. It's been pretty well used in the past, and that does make the analysis easier."

Dirckson said they hope to receive an operating permit soon and start extracting ore from the site by this summer.

 

Copyright 2015 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

More from the Gazette

Highlands mine could mean primary, secondary jobs for Butte

Highlands mine could mean primary, secondary jobs for Butte

1 hour ago Photos

Photos

Loading…
Legitimate questions and politics collide with welfare whistleblowers

Legitimate questions and politics collide with welfare whistleblowers

7 hours ago Photos

Photos

Loading…
Taxing and spending: How much money is coming in and how will it be spent

Taxing and spending: How much money is coming in and how will it be spent

18 hours ago Photos

Photos

Loading…
Helena man sentenced to 50 years for 11th drunk-driving offense

Helena man sentenced to 50 years for 11th drunk-driving offense

January 24, 2015 11:00 amLoading…
Missoula native Darian Stevens seeking X Games medal

Missoula native Darian Stevens seeking X Games medal

January 24, 2015 10:30 amLoading…
Carroll Saints help woman, child from burning car

Carroll Saints help woman, child from burning car

January 24, 2015 10:19 amLoading…
UM economists: Tourism powers economy, gas prices a concern in Bakken

UM economists: Tourism powers economy, gas prices a concern in Bakken

January 24, 2015 10:00 amLoading…
Man convicted in North Dakota oil patch murder appealing

Man convicted in North Dakota oil patch murder appealing

January 24, 2015 9:33 amLoading…

House committee advances income tax cut bills

January 23, 2015 6:15 pmLoading…
Plan would help small business pay for health insurance

Plan would help small business pay for health insurance

January 23, 2015 3:38 pmLoading…
Supporters rally as lawmakers weigh preschool plan

Supporters rally as lawmakers weigh preschool plan

January 23, 2015 1:23 pm Photos

Photos

Loading…
Lawmaker seeks to up penalty for abuse of pregnant women

Lawmaker seeks to up penalty for abuse of pregnant women

January 23, 2015 12:35 pmLoading…

Whitefish man pleads no contest to felony arson

January 23, 2015 11:41 amLoading…

Follow The Billings Gazette

Popular Stories

Get weekly ads via e-mail

Deals & Offers

Featured Businesses