Upper Blackfoot Mining Complex

 

 

Virtual Tour

PROJECT OVERVIEW

The Upper Blackfoot Mining Complex (UBMC) is a state superfund facility located about 15 miles east of Lincoln. Seeps from the tailings and waste rock dumps along with acid mine drainage from old adits have contaminated surface water, sediments, soils and groundwater. Additional contamination exists due to the 1975 dam failure that washed metals-laden tailings down the Beartrap Creek drainage and into the upper Blackfoot River.

DEQ has led cleanup efforts in coordination with the United States Forest Service (USFS) and Montana Natural Resource Damage Program (NRDP) over the past several years. The primary goal of the cleanup is to remove approximately 1 million cubic yards of tailings and mine waste to protect human health and the environment. This protection will be accomplished by minimizing direct contact with contaminants and limiting migration and mobility of contaminants within the environment.

HISTORY

The UBMC, also known as the Heddleston District, is an inactive mining district which was mined intermittently from 1889 to the 1950's and explored intermittently up to the present. The UBMC is located in the headwaters of the Blackfoot River in a fairly remote location on and near national forest land, which is used by hunters and other recreationists. The town of Lincoln is about 15 miles downstream.

The main mine workings at the UBMC are the Mike Horse, Anaconda, Carbonate, Edith, Mary P, and Paymaster mines and a tailings impoundment on Beartrap Creek. Tailings are the materials created during the processing of the ore rock. They are generally fine-grained and may contain elevated levels of metals. The historic mining and exploration activities in this area have resulted in numerous tailings and waste rock dumps. Erosion from the tailings and waste rock dumps along with acidic seeps and mine drainage from old adits have contaminated surface water, sediments, soils and groundwater. Additional contamination exists due to the 1975 tailings impoundment failure that washed metal-laden tailings down the Beartrap Creek drainage and into the upper Blackfoot River.

SETTLEMENT

The State of Montana and the USFS successfully reached a settlement with ARCO and Asarco for environmental damages at the UBMC. Claims and interest paid amounted to approximately $39 million. More detail on the settlement can be found at the NRDP website. DEQ will lead cleanup efforts in coordination with the USFS and NRDP.

NEWS

NEWSLETTERS

DEQ, in coordination with the USFS and NRDP, puts out the Mike Horse Messenger, the newsletter for the Upper Blackfoot Mining Complex. It is generally published twice a year, before and after the field season, to keep interested parties informed of progress at the UBMC.

If you would like to receive the Mike Horse Messenger or any other mailings on the UBMC from DEQ, you have two choices: 1.) To receive the information electronically, please use this ListServ option to enter your email information, or 2.) use this link to enter your address information and the mailings will be put in the mail to you.

Newsletter
Mike Horse Messenger 12/05/18
Mike Horse Messenger 10/2018
Mike Horse Messenger 06/2018
Mike Horse Messenger 10/2017
Mike Horse Messenger 06/2016
Mike Horse Messenger 02/2016
Mike Horse Messenger 05/2015
Mike Horse Messenger 08/2014
Mike Horse Messenger 01/2014
Mike Horse Messenger 07/2013
Mike Horse Messenger 01/2013
Mike Horse Messenger 07/2012
Mike Horse Messenger 11/2011
Mike Horse Messenger 06/2011
Mike Horse Messenger 11/2010
UBMC FactSheet 11/2010     
Mike Horse Messenger 06/2010  
Mike Horse Messenger  01/2009
News Articles
 
Blackfoot Valley Dispatch (Article):'Restoring life to the UBMC'
Blackfoot Valley Dispatch (Article):Work on UBMC cleanup set to resume this summer, public meeting planned
Blackfoot Valley Dispatch (Article): 'Watershed Moments'
Blackfoot Valley Dispatch (Article): 'Quake
Montana Council of Trout Unlimited (Article): 'Good News for the Big Blackfoot'
Blackfoot Valley Dispatch(Article):'DEQ releases record of decision for final cleanup of Upper Blackfoot Mining Complex'
Blackfoot Valley Dispatch(Article):'DEQ, USFS, detail plan for cleaning up remaining UBMC contamination'
Blackfoot Valley Dispatch (Article): Cleanup Moves Ahead
Blackfoot Valley Dispatch(Article): 'Last of the Blue Goo'
Blackfoot Valley Dispatch (Article):'Historic Dam Progress at the Mike Horse'
 
Governor's Visit
KPAX News Segment

Water Treatment Plant

The Upper Blackfoot Mining Complex (UBMC) is an inactive mining district more than 50 acres in size and located 15 miles east of Lincoln, Montana. American Smelting and Refining Company (Asarco) constructed the UBMC water treatment plant in 2008 and began operation in January 2009. The plant collects discharge from two mine adits and two seeps, treats the waters with chemicals and a ceramic membrane filter system, and then discharges the water into the Upper Blackfoot River. The primary metals that are removed are cadmium, copper, iron, lead, manganese and zinc. As part of the Asarco bankruptcy, Asarco funded a Trust to operate the water treatment plant with State of Montana oversight.

If you have any questions concerning water treatment plant operations, please direct your inquiries to:

Robert Roll
Remediation Division
1225 Cedar Street, Helena, Montana 59602
406-444-6438
rroll@mt.gov

CURRENT ACTIVITIES

Construction

Work resumed at the Upper Blackfoot Mining Complex near Lincoln in July, starting at the confluence of Mike Horse and Beartrap creeks and moving down to the Water Treatment Plant. Excavation may then continue from the Water Treatment Plant toward Edith Mine, dependent upon achieving project milestones established in the bid package. DEQ aims to finish this work by the end of the 2019 construction season.

Crews are expected to remove up to 257,000 cubic yards of waste this season. That’s in addition to nearly 700,000 cubic yards of tailings and mine waste removed since excavations began in 2014. 

As in previous construction seasons, Meadow Creek and Mike Horse roads will be closed until work stops for the winter. Construction is weather-dependent, but is expected to last through November. The agencies remind motorists to watch for work crews and equipment as well as signs indicating reduced speed limits.

DOCUMENTS & REPORTS

Decision Documents
Document Description Year Published
Record of Decision The Record of Decision identifies the final remedy for completing clenaup activities on non-federla lands at the UBMC site. 2016
Final Feasibility Study Report The Feasibility Study was prepared to develop, screen, and evaluate remedial action alternatives for the UBMC. 2016
Final Human Health Risk Assessment Presents the findings of the baseline human health risk assessment conducted on the UBMC. 2014
 
Final Eco-Risk Assessment Explains how the UBMC contamination in soil, stream sediment, and surface water affects the environment 2013
Final Remedial Investigation Report Soil, sediment, surface water, groundwater, and biological data collected in 2007, 2008, and 2011 to determine the extent of contamination in the UBMC 2013
2012 Repository Decision (USFS website) Amendment to the 2007 USFS decision changing the repository location for the Mike Horse waste 2012

Repository Siting Study   (USFS website)

Comparative study of locations for a repository for the Mike Horse waste 2011
2007 Mike Horse Decision (USFS website) USFS decision on removal in the UBMC, including the Mike Horse Dam 2007
Monitoring Reports
Document Description Year Published
2012 Mining Area Monitoring Reports Data collected from surface water, groundwater, and stream sediments to establish existing conditions before cleanup 2013
2012 Section 35 Monitoring Report Data collected from surface water, groundwater, and stream sediments to establish existing condition before the repository is built 2013
2011 Mining Area Monitoring Report Data collected from surface water, groundwater, and stream sediments to establish existing condition before cleanup 2012
2011 Section 35 Monitoring Report Data collected from surface and groundwater to establish existing condition before the repository is built 2012
2010 Mining Area Monitoring Report Data collected from surface water, groundwater, and stream sediments to establish existing condition before cleanup 2012

2009 Mining Area Monitoring Report

2009 Mining Area Monitoring Report Maps

2009 Mining Area Monitoring Report Appendices

Data collected from surface water, groundwater, and stream sediments to establish existing condition before cleanup 2010
Construction Investigation and Documents
Document Description Year Published

2012 Floodplain Design-Level Investigation

2012 Floodplain Design-Level Investigation Appendices

Data collected to determine extent of removal of mine waste from the mining area and ensure proper placement in the repository 2013
2012 Repository Design-Level Investigation Data collected to determine proper design of the repository 2013

CONTACTS

David Bowers

MT DEQ Logo

Project Officer
Phone: 444-6335
dbowers@mt.gov

Karen Ogden

MT DEQ Logo

Community Involvement Coordinator
Phone: (406) 444-6360
karen.ogden@mt.gov

Bob Roll

MT DEQ Logo

Water Treatment Plant Coordinator
Phone: (406) 444-6438
rroll@mt.gov

Michael Stansberry

MT DEQ Logo

Lincoln District Ranger
Phone: (406) 362-7000
mstansberry@fs.fed.us

Reid Stovall

MT DEQ Logo

Helena National Forest
Phone: (406) 495-3766
reidstovall@fs.fed.us

Beau Downing

MT DEQ Logo

Restoration Coordinator
Phone: (406) 444-0291
beaudowning@mt.gov