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Toxic parrot tailings dirt being removed from Butte to improve Silver Bow Creek

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Posted at 10:12 AM, Jul 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-09 12:20:40-04

BUTTE — Haul trucks have started moving tons of contaminated dirt from a site off Civic Center Road in Butte to prevent heavy metals from seeping into groundwater that could be harmful to aquatic life.

“The contaminated material gets hauled over here and dumped by the state and the state’s contractors and then MR comes on our night shift and picks this material up and hauls it to a dump. We dispose of it; essentially we’re being the repository for the bad material,” said Montana Resources VP of Environmental Affairs Mark Thompson.

The material, known as the parrot tailings, is a century’s worth of smelter waste that had been buried in this area of Butte. The state-funded project will also take contaminated groundwater from the site, where it will be treated at Montana Resources property, before being pumped into Silver Bow Creek, along with treated water from the Berkeley Pit.

“We’ve discharged, we’re coming up on 4 billion gallons discharged to Silver Bow Creek. Yeah, billion with a B,” said Thompson.

The state-contracted crew is moving tons of dirt onto the Montana Resources property, where the mine continues its regular mining operations. Safety is a priority.

“Anytime you do something that’s out of the routine, that’s where you have a higher risk, so like I said these guys are really good to work with, they’re very safety conscious just like us,” said Thompson.

This is just one of the many ways Montana Resources is trying to help in the reclamation process after Butte has suffered over a century’s worth of contamination.

“Having a mine in the middle of a community has its drawbacks. We have the noise, we have the light, we have the dust, so any opportunity we see to try and pay back those negative things with some positive things, we really like to do that,” he said.

This phase of the removal process is expected to continue into this fall.