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Sep 17, 2013


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Lisa Peterson
Director's Office


DEQ Releases Draft EIS for Golden Sunlight Mine Expansion


HELENA - The Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has released a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for a proposed amendment to Golden Sunlight’s Mine operating permit that could allow the company to expand its current mining operation, including a new pit. The mine is located near Whitehall, Mont.

DEQ will hold a public meeting to accept comments on the draft EIS on Tuesday, October 8 at the Whitehall Community Center, 11 North Division St. from 6:00 – 8:00 pm. The department will accept public comment, including written comments, on the draft EIS until October 20, 2013.

The draft EIS identified and analyzed four alternatives for disposing of waste rock from the new North Pit and their potential impacts, including a No-Action Alternative. The major difference in the alternatives involve the disposal of waste rock and include both no-backfill and backfill options.

Two of the alternatives do not require backfill of waste rock into the pit. The primary benefit of the no-backfill alternatives is it would allow the construction of a backup system to protect groundwater if the mine’s dewatering wells fail. The alternative that requires backfill would have much less negative visual impact than the other alternatives, but it would prevent the construction of a secondary groundwater capture system.

“We have not chosen a preferred alternative for this EIS, because they all have pros and cons. Comments from the public and the local community will be very important to making our decision,” said DEQ Director Tracy Stone-Manning.

At the public meeting, DEQ staff will explain the draft EIS and take comments. Written comments should be submitted to Kristi Ponozzo; DEQ Director’s Office, P.O. Box 200901, Helena, MT 59620-0901, or by email to The draft EIS is available on the DEQ website at

DEQ will make reasonable accommodations for persons with a disability that may interfere with their ability to participate in the scoping meetings or public comment process. Accommodations can be arranged by contacting Kristi Ponozzo at 406-444-2813 or

Summary of Alternatives

No Action Alternative - The No Action Alternative would continue current operations. The mine would continue to operate 24-hours per day, 7 days per week, through the end of 2014 or early 2015. Golden Sunlight is currently approved for mining and associated facilities disturbance on 3,104 acres in a permit area of 6,125 acres.

Company Proposed Action Alternative - Under this proposal, Golden Sunlight would expand its current mining operation with the addition of one new pit - called the North Area Pit - and an expansion to the existing Mineral Hill Pit, known as the South Area Layback. The expansion would allow the company to mine an additional 4.2 million tons of gold ore that would be processed at the existing mill facility. Approximately 52.6 million tons of waste rock would be generated from the proposed new mining areas and would be placed in placed in the East Waste Rock Dump Complex. This alternative would extend current mining operations by about two years.

Agency-Modified Alternative – This proposal is the same as the Proposed Action Alternative with modifications developed by DEQ to reduce the environmental impacts. These modifications include capturing and routing of seeps in the expansion area that could contaminate water and routing of North Area Pit surface water runoff and groundwater after mine closure.

North Area Pit Backfill Alternative – This proposal is similar to the Proposed Action Alternative except up that to 9.2 million tons of waste rock from the South Area Layback would be used to backfill the North Area Pit rather than being hauled to the expansion areas.

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