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Jun 02, 2010


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Richard Opper
(406) 444-2544


DEQ begins major reclamation project near Yellowstone National Park


The Montana Department of Environmental Quality is starting cleanup of a major mill site near Yellowstone National Park. The $24 million McLaren Tailings Reclamation Project that began today will remove a significant source of heavy metals contamination flowing into the park and capitalize on the current high price of gold to recoup some of the reclamation costs.

The 30-acre McLaren Tailings Site is located at the former McLaren Mine Mill near Cooke City in Park County. Mine waste rock and tailings contaminate Soda Butte Creek that runs through the site and eventually through the park, about five miles downstream. Over the next six years, the DEQ Abandoned Mine Section will remove approximately 230,000 cubic yards, or one-half million tons, of contaminated mine waste. Materials will be placed in a repository built on a property adjoining the site. A portion of the tailings will be transported to Golden Sunlight Mine in Whitehall for processing to recover gold that remains in the tailings. The tailings will be disposed in its permitted, synthetically-lined storage facility.

A major advantage of this reclamation approach is that it will move many of the tailings away from Yellowstone National Park into a permanent, permitted disposal facility, said DEQ Director Richard Opper. This is a wonderful opportunity to eliminate pollution from one of the countrys most beloved and beautiful recreation areas.

The state estimates there could be $25 to $30 million worth of gold in the tailings. The DEQ is contracting with Knife River Corporation for excavation and transportation, and with Barrick Gold Corporation, owners of Golden Sunlight Mine, for processing. The project should employ about 50 people.

We expect this plan to be as good as gold, said Opper. Were recycling the gold left behind in tailings from old milling done 80 years ago. This is another example of Governor Schweitzers restoration economy and its a demonstration of Montana ingenuity at its best.

The McLaren Tailings Site sends acid mine drainage into Soda Butte Creek. In addition, earthquakes or high water flows could cause the tailings dam to fail, which would deposit contaminated material along the creek and into the park. Funding for the project is provided through a grant from the Federal Office of Surface Mining Control, Reclamation and Enforcement.

The DEQ will conduct an informational meeting about the project at 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, June 8, 2010, at the Fire Hall, 102 West Main Street, in Cooke City. Topics include project objectives, the schedule of work planned for this summer and fall, and site reclamation plans for subsequent years. The public is encouraged to attend and will have an opportunity to ask questions. The DEQ will make reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities who wish to participate in this meeting.

For more information contact Tom Henderson, Ph.D., DEQ Reclamation Specialist at (406) 841-5052 or If you require an accommodation at the June 8 informational meeting, please contact Mary Ann Dunwell at (406) 841-5016 or

Mary Ann Dunwell
Public Information Coordinator
Remediation Division
Montana Department of Environmental Quality 1100 North Last Chance Gulch Helena, MT 59601
(406) 841-5016
(406) 461-5358 (cell)

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