DEQ Press Releases

Driscoll, Paul

Opencut mining application for Billings gravel pit under extended review

HELENA –  On July 9, the Department of Environmental Quality notified FirstMark Materials, applicant for the Opencut mining permit application known as Oscar’s, southwest of Billings in Yellowstone County, that the application would be placed under extended review.


DEQ held a public meeting June 20 in Billings. Public comments received at the meeting revealed substantial issues not adequately satisfied in FirstMark’s Plan of Operation. As a result, the application will be the subject to extended review as provided by Montana law.


Specifically, local citizens identified the proposed application does not adequately provide protective plans for the following areas:


  • Potential impacts to water quality and water resources used by nearby residents for drinking and domestic needs
  • Some nitrate levels on the site were measured at five times safe drinking water standards
  • Hydrocarbons of an unknown source were detected at some sampling sites
  • No protection of groundwater from proposed fueling during operations
  • Inconsistencies between the hydrologic report and the proposed Plan of Operations
  • Lack of data to reflect seasonal variations in groundwater and surface water
  • Issues with the proposed permit boundaries


Within 60 days from the date of notification, DEQ will provide FirstMark with a detailed notice of the deficiencies.  For sufficient cause, DEQ may extend the 60 day review period by an additional 30 days. The application can be viewed at by entering “3115” in the “Opencut #” box and clicking the “Submit” button.


DEQ accepts public comment on Opencut applications throughout the permitting process. Comments can be submitted by email using the “Public Comment for FirstMark Materials–Oscar’s Site Gravel Pit – Opencut #3115 on the “Submit Public Comment” tab on the Opencut Mining Section’s webpage at, or by U.S. Mail addressed to the DEQ Opencut Mining Section, PO Box 200901, Helena, MT 59620-0901.

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