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Upper Blackfoot Mining Complex

 Click on the map below for an interactive version

 
Seepage just below the dam-2007

Seepage just below the tailings impoundment.

Beartrap Creek and mine waste looking north from the base of the tailings impoundment.

UBMC Repository.

Please click on the tabs below for more information on the UBMC. Included are links to other agency websites that provide information related to the UBMC.

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 will lead cleanup efforts in coordination with the United States Forest Service (USFS) and Montana Natural Resource Damage Program (NRDP) over the next few 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 1950s 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 contain metals at levels that are toxic to human health and the environment. 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.

Mike Horse Dam
Click map above for larger view of area descriptions.

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.

Mike Horse Messengers
Document Description
Governor's Visit

KPAX News Segment

Helena IR Article

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.

 

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

Water Treatment Plant

The water treatment plant (WTP) is now meeting final discharge limits (final limits) for all metals at UBMC. Construction modifications to meet final limits began at the WTP in the spring of 2011 so that the WTP could effectively treat the millions of gallons of metals-laden water seeping from the historic mines. Meeting final limits protects fish and aquatic life, as well as human health. The crew at the WTP has worked to modify the WTP in order to successfully meet the final limits. In addition, the WTP sludge generation process has been modified so that the material extracted from the water do not require additional treatment prior to being sent to a landfill. Even with the success of modifying the WTP to treat the mine discharges, the crew is continually working to improve plant operations, maximize effectiveness, and save money. On average, the WTP collects and processes half a million gallons of water each week. The WTP will likely operate for many decades to treat acidic mine water that will continually run from the mine adits. Acid mine drainage is an unfortunate, though fairly common remnant of mining to be addressed well into the future throughout Montana.

Construction

The UBMC cleanup began in July 2014. The bid winner for this phase of the construction project was Helena Sand and Gravel. They will be hauling mine waste from the tailings impoundment at the headwaters of the Blackfoot River to the UBMC Repository located on Highway 279 as long as the weather permits. Trucks will be pulling onto Highway 200 from Meadow Creek Road at the bottom of Rogers Pass. The agencies remind motorists to watch for work crews and equipment as well as signs indicating reduced speed limits. 

Work under this contract will complete the repository preparation work started by Shumaker Trucking and Excavating under the first phase of construction with the UBMC. Additionally, Helena Sand and Gravel will remove most of the tailings impoundment and dam over the next two years. By the end of 2015, Beartrap Creek will be in its original channel at the bottom of the valley instead of perched in a ditch on the side of the mountain, as it has been for the majority of the last 75 years. 

   

Decision Documents
Document Description Year Published
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

2010 Section 35 Initial Investigation

2010 Section 35 Initial Investigation Tables

2010 Section 35 Initial Investigation Appendices

Data collected to determine whether Section 35 held any potential as a repository for the Mike Horse wastes 2010
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

 

 

 

MT DEQ Logo MT DEQ Logo MT DEQ Logo
David Bowers Shellie Haaland Bob Roll
Project Officer
P.O. Box 200901
Helena MT  59620-0901
406-841-5063
1-800-246-8198 (in-state only)
dbowers@mt.gov
Construction Manager
P.O. Box 200901
Helena MT  59620-0901
406-431-1401
1-800-246-8198 (in-state only)
shaaland@mt.gov
Water Treatment Plant Coordinator
P.O. Box 200901
Helena MT  59620-0901
406-841-5025
1-800-246-8198 (in-state only)
rroll@mt.gov
Beth Ihle Amber Kamps Greg Mullen
Geologist
415 South Front St.
Townsend, MT  59644
406-495-3863
bihle@fs.fed.us
Lincoln District Ranger
Lincoln, MT  
406-362-7000
akamps@fs.fed.us
Restoration Coordinator
1301 Lockey Ave.
Helena, MT  59620
406-444-0228
gmullen@mt.gov