The Montana Department of Environmental Quality released a Final Environmental Assessment (EA) today for a proposed exploration project near Zortman, Mont. in Phillips County. The EA is specific to a new exploration project proposed by Blue Arc LLC on private land at the former Zortman Mine.
DEQ received an application for an exploration license from the landowner, under the name Blue Arc LLC, on March 3, 2020, to extract a 1,000-ton bulk sample from a single trench site at an exposed highwall of the former Zortman Mine. The sample would then be shipped for testing to a facility in Nevada to determine the mineral quality. The entire proposed project would be located on private land and would disturb about 1.4 acres. In addition to creating the bulk sample trench, Blue Arc LLC would use an existing access road and would construct an approximately one-half-mile haul road to access the trench area and other temporary stockpile areas. All new disturbances would be reclaimed, except for the new access road, which would be kept for use by the private landowner.
On Oct. 7, 2020, the United States Bureau of Land Management (BLM) proposed a mineral withdrawal of the public lands in the Zortman-Landusky Mine Reclamation Area to protect the area from new mining claims or sites for an additional 20-year period, subject to valid existing rights. The withdrawal is a separate, unrelated process led by BLM. The proposed project evaluated in DEQ’s final EA is on private lands and therefore would not be subject to the BLM proposed mineral withdrawal.
An exploration license is not an operating permit to mine. An exploration license only authorizes activities to be conducted for the purpose of determining the presence and extent of an ore body. An exploration license does not authorize the mining of an ore body.
DEQ prepared a draft EA to analyze potential impacts from the proposed project. The public comment period on the draft EA for this proposed action began Oct. 28, 2020 and ended Nov. 30, 2020. If a proposed project meets the requirements of Montana law (82-4-332, Montana Code Annotated), the applicant is entitled to the exploration license. The applicant must post a reclamation bond prior to any disturbance.
In the Final EA, DEQ discloses the potential impacts on area resources and responds to substantive public comments. To view the Final EA, please visit the DEQ website at: http://deq.mt.gov/Public/ea/hardrock