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Dec 19, 2013


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Kristi Ponozzo
Director's Office


DEQ Releases Final EIS for Golden Sunlight Mine Expansion


HELENA – Today, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) released a final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for a proposed amendment to Golden Sunlight Mine’s operating permit. The proposed amendment would allow the company to expand its current mining operation, located near Whitehall, by two years. The mine currently employs 187 people and 50 full-time contractors.

The proposed amendment would add one new pit called the North Area Pit and expand the existing Mineral Hill Pit.

DEQ considered four alternatives in the EIS: the No Action Alternative; the Proposed Action Alternative; the Agency-Modified Alternative; and the North Area Pit Backfill Alternative. DEQ chose the Agency-Modified Alternative because it is more protective of water quality. DEQ’s final decision will be set forth in a record of decision to be released in early January.

"Protecting water quality was essential to our decision", said Tracy Stone-Manning, DEQ Director, " Leaving the pit open gives us a backup system to ensure we capture and treat polluted water—we’ll literally be able to see if the system is working."

The agency approved plan will require the mine to implement ground movement monitoring for the North Area Pit and the East Waste Rock Dump expansion area when the mine closes. This will ensure safe access and keep reclamation cover systems working. It also requires the preparation of a detailed bat and raptor reclamation plan for the North Area Pit highwall to ensure some utility to wildlife.

DEQ considered the North Area Pit Backfill Alternative in detail and determined that backfilling the North Area Pit would eliminate the option of having a secondary method of seepage collection in the event that the proposed dewatering wells fail. Backfilling could also eliminate the potential benefits of redirecting groundwater from the head of the East Waste Rock Dump Complex flowpath into the North Area Pit, where it could be more easily captured.

The analysis contained in the final EIS was informed by comments received by DEQ on the draft EIS. The EIS is available on the DEQ website at:

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