Surface Mining
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Golden Sunlight Readies to Develop New Underground Apex Gold Mine, Montana

Published: April 28, 2017 |

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A projected gold mine planned to open north of Whitehall in 2018 will not likely create new jobs, according to Golden Sunlight Mine General Manager Dan Banghart.

That’s because the new mine will be entirely underground, which requires less manpower, Banghart said Wednesday.

Golden Sunlight’s ongoing underground mine, called 2 BUG, snakes around the walls of the former open pit mine. That underground effort employs nearly 150 workers. About 45 of those are Golden Sunlight employees. A Canadian-based contractor, Redpath, supplies the additional workers.

The proposed 18,000-foot tunnel, waiting to be permitted by both state and federal agencies, is called the Apex. The announcement of the new mine comes at a time when the price of gold is seeing an upswing. Gold was trading around $1,280 per ounce on Wednesday.

The life expectancy for the Apex is projected for three years, but Banghart said Golden Sunlight will continue to explore for more ore to mine in the area.

The new mine is expected to extract about 1.3 million tons of ore and .3 million tons of waste rock. Canadian-based Barrick Gold Corp. has been working since at least 2015 toward developing the project.

Just as Golden Sunlight was closing its open pit mining operation north of Whitehall in November 2015, Banghart announced that the company was trying to develop the new mine. It was originally planned to be an open pit operation called the Bonnie.

But Banghart said Golden Sunlight opted to turn the project into an underground mine because the permitting is considerably easier.

“We’re looking at new surface disturbance underground of 2½ acres (with the underground mine) versus a couple hundred acres if it’s a surface mine. It makes (permitting) things simpler on that front,” Banghart said.

The Department of Environmental Quality and the Bureau of Land Management are working together on the permitting process. The new mine will burrow under BLM land. DEQ permits hard-rock mining activities throughout the state.

DEQ spokesperson Kristi Ponozzo said that whether the mine is underground or above ground, the permitting process is the same for DEQ.

But BLM Geologist Dave Williams agreed with Banghart, saying that since there is not likely to be new environmental impacts, the permitting process through the federal agency is likely to be simpler.

“What Golden Sunlight is proposing is inconsequential surface disturbance and they’ll be using existing facilities; they’ll use the existing mill and the existing tailings impoundment. So it doesn’t involve any new surface disturbance,” said Williams.

Despite the fact that the new mine isn’t anticipating hiring more workers, Montana Mining Association Executive Director Tammy Johnson called the project a “big benefit for Whitehall.”

“It may be more (jobs) depending on what they see when they get in,” Johnson said Wednesday. “It will certainly be a benefit to the county and community. We’re excited about it.”

Ed Caplis, director of the Department of Revenue Tax Policy and Research, said the new mine will likely improve Jefferson County’s tax revenue.

“Once they start production ... they will pay gross on the receipts on that ore, so Jefferson County would receive property taxes from the ore,” Caplis said Wednesday.

The proposed mine will be approximately half a mile north of the now defunct Mineral Hill pit.

Jefferson County Commissioner Leonard Wortman is excited to see a new mine being proposed in the Whitehall area. He pointed out that the Redpath contract workers help Whitehall’s economic outlook by living and spending money in Jefferson County.

“I hope it (the mine’s permits) gets through real fast. It will be a benefit to all of us,” said Wortman.

Source: (April 19, 2017) Montana Standard


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