HELENA — On Friday, Aug. 27, 2021, the Department of Environmental Quality released a Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for a proposed tailings reprocessing project at the Golden Sunlight Mine. The Golden Sunlight Mine is located approximately five miles northeast of Whitehall, Mont. in Jefferson County.
The project, an amendment to the current operating permit under the Metal Mine Reclamation Act, would allow Golden Sunlight to excavate and reprocess tailings in order to extract a gold and sulfide concentrate. Golden Sunlight would excavate tailings in Tailing Storage Facility 1, move the material to a re-pulping plant, pump the slurried tailings to the flotation plant in the mill, and reprocess the tailings. The project may extend the life of the mine by up to 12 years. Approximately 26 million tons of tailings would be reprocessed and the remaining product would be disposed of in an onsite pit. After excavation, the tailings facility footprint would be reclaimed for land uses such as grazing, recreation and wildlife habitat. All proposed activities would occur within the existing permitted boundary and would not disturb any new areas.
A draft EIS was published for public review and comment for 30 days, ending on July 15, 2021. DEQ also held a public meeting in Whitehall, Mont. to provide information and accept comments on the draft EIS.
In the Draft and in the Final EIS, DEQ analyzed a No Action Alternative, the applicant’s Proposed Action based on the application submitted to DEQ, and an additional alternative—the DEQ Modified Alternative. The DEQ Modified Alternative incorporates reclamation techniques to mimic the pre-disturbance of the current mining activity and ensure suitable soil cover for revegetation in the tailings storage area. DEQ identified the DEQ Modified Alternative as the agency’s preferred alternative.
The Final EIS addresses substantive issues and concerns raised at the public meeting and in public comment. All new information and analysis supplied during the comment period and developed in response to comments received were used to prepare the Final EIS. In the Final EIS, DEQ maintained the DEQ Modified Alternative as the agency’s preferred alternative. Golden Sunlight was consulted about the preferred alternative and associated permit stipulations.
To view the Final EIS, please visit the DEQ website at: https://deq.mt.gov/Public/publicnotice [deq.mt.gov]
DEQ will determine its final decision and rationale in the Record of Decision (ROD). The ROD is a public notice that identifies DEQ’s decision, its reasons for the decision and any special conditions surrounding the decision or its implementation. Pursuant to the Administrative Rules of Montana, DEQ may issue its ROD no less than 15 days after publication of the Final EIS.