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HELENA - A talc business in southwestern Montana has state approval to dig a second pit where benign waste from the processing of talc can be stored.

The pit at the Barretts Minerals site some eight miles south of Dillon will cover about 5.5 acres, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality said. The existing waste pit on 7 acres or so is filling, DEQ said. In reclamation, such pits eventually are covered and seeded for vegetation, the agency said.

The U.S. Geological Survey ranks Montana the top state in production of talc, which is used in body powder, catalytic converters for automobiles, plastics, chewing gum, paint and other products.

Barretts is one of two talc operators in Montana. Rio Tinto Minerals mines talc south of Ennis, and processes it at two locations in western Gallatin County.

Barretts production manager Jim Daley said the operation south of Dillon dates to the mid-20th century. Daley said the company mines talc at two sites in the Ruby Mountains, sells it worldwide and employs about 90 people.

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