WHITEHALL — The Golden Sunlight Mine near Whitehall is no longer digging for gold, but the company hopes to find gold and other valuable material from the mine waste left behind.
“It allows them to do reclamation while continue to work and, you know, produce jobs and this marketable product,” said Garrett Smith with the Department of Environmental Quality.
The gold mine started operations in 1975, before ceasing open-pit mining in 2019. The mine is requesting a new permit to reprocess buried mine tailings on the site to extract the remaining gold and sulfur from the waste material. The material will be put into a concentrate and ship to a facility in Nevada.
The remaining material will be used to backfill the open pit on the property. At the same time, the land will be reclaimed by the mine.
“Some of our concerns do rotate around groundwater and water quality and making sure that the pit can be managed appropriately long term,” said Smith.
This would allow the mine to continue operations for another 12 years and hire more than 40 employees.
Before the DEQ can approve the permit, they first want public input on the project.
“We’re having a virtual scoping meeting on March 4th where they can submit oral comments, we also have opportunities where they can mail in comments to us or email comments to us as well,” said Craig Jones the Montana Environmental Policy Act Coordinator.
This new operation is expected to produce about 450 tons of this concentrate a day which would be trucked down to Nevada on the highway.
“So as they produce this concentrate, they’ll have an area where they can stockpile that and then load that into trucks and needed. We have kind of an estimate and we can try to calculate the number of vehicles and that kind of thing and we’ll do some of that as a part of our analysis in the EIS,” said Smith.
The Environmental Impact Study will be completed in September and the DEQ will decide whether or not to approve the permit.