For more information, contact:
DEQ Project Manager
Numerous coal mines operated around the community Belt starting with the mine opened by John Castner in 1877. Initial coal production was shipped to Fort Benton to fuel steamboats and for residential use. In 1893, Anaconda Mining acquired Castner Coal and coal mining peaked in the late 1890s with the construction of 100 coke ovens and a workforce 1200 employees. The Belt Anaconda Mine extended more than 12,000 feet west from the mine adit, situated near the current location of the Belt water storage tanks. Following the turn of the century, coal production from the mine slowed and the mine closed in 1924. Smaller mines located on the east side of Belt Creek operated as late as 1963.
Abandoned coal mines surrounding Belt discharge approximately 250 acre-feet of contaminated water to Belt Creek each year. The water is acidic and contains dissolved metals exceeding Montana water quality standards. On average, approximately 700 pounds of iron and 500 pounds of aluminum are discharged each day. This contaminated water accounts for much of the flow in Belt Creek during base flow conditions from the late summer through early spring each year. Lower Belt Creek is has been identified as an impaired water body not fully supporting its beneficial uses.
In 2012 the DEQ Abandoned Mine Lands program completed a Water Treatment Assessment to assess coal mine discharges in the Great Falls Coal Field and prioritize treatment of the discharges. This work identified the coal mines around Belt as the top priority for treatment due to the proximity of the community and resource value of Belt Creek. Potential technologies to treat the water are evaluated in the 2016 Engineering Evaluation Cost Analysis and Environmental Assessment For Water Treatment of Acid Mine Discharges in Belt, MT. The current plan is to construct a collection system to capture the mine water at the individual discharge points and convey the water to a water treatment facility east of the Belt Anaconda Mine near South 5th Street. Construction of the plant is anticipated for 2017 and 2018 with the plant fully operational in 2019.