STILLWATER COUNTY — The Sibanye-Stillwater Mine near Nye remains closed after the Stillwater River flood left a 400-foot gap in the road. A temporary road has been constructed, and the mine is now expected to be fully operational in three to five weeks.
“Things are actually going great here. I was just up inside today,” said Heather McDowell, a vice president of Sibanye-Stillwater Mine, on Wednesday.
That’s saying something after the literal roadblocks Mother Nature threw the mine’s way.
“In lieu of having that sort of 400-foot chunk of road, we built a temporary road here, and it can get us in and out of the mine for our supplies and our people,” said McDowell.
Though only 190 of the 1,200 workers were at the mine Wednesday, progress is being made.
“They’re doing a lot of things that frankly are sort of a luxury to have the time to do from a maintenance perspective, 'cuz we’re a 24-hour operation,” McDowell said.
That’s good news not just for the mine, the only supplier of platinum and palladium ore in North America, but for homes and businesses up and down Nye Road, like the Fishtail General Store.
“They got that done really, really quick cause this is the hub that gets to the mine,” said the owner of the Fishtail General Store, Katy Martin.
The bridge connecting Absarokee to Fishtail washed away but replacing it was a top priority. Less than two weeks later, a new one now connects the two communities. The bridge also serves as a lifeline to the mine.
“We were doing contingency planning for it to be out for up to six months so it really has greatly improved our getting back up to full speed at the mine,” said McDowell.
McDowell is hopeful that the 400-foot gap that remains on Nye Road will be fixed sooner rather than later.
“The county and everyone have been putting their heads together to figure out the best fix for it so I think we’re hopeful it will be before winter,” said McDowell.
Residents like Martin are grateful progress has been made in just a matter of weeks.
“We’ve been very impatient. But I have to tell you it’s been amazing,” said Martin.