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Scotchman Mine project receives stimulus funds

by Western News
| August 6, 2009 12:00 AM

Kootenai National Forest received funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for cleanup of the abandoned Scotchman Mine southwest of Libby.

The forest will use existing funds to complete the planning phase of the project and stimulus funding to contract for the cleanup of the mine.

The Forest Service has also partnered with and received funding from the Green Mountain Conservation District on the project. The conservation district obtained a grant under the Reclamation and Development Grants Program administered by the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation that is covering much of the planning for the cleanup.

The Scotchman Mine, located four miles north of Heron and about 25 miles southwest of Libby is within Kootenai National Forest and the Clark Fork drainage.

The Scotchman was a silver, lead and zinc mine that was initially worked by Montana Mining and Milling Co., beginning in about 1908 and was last operational from 1966-70.

In 1999, the Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology collaborated with the Forest Service and completed an assessment of abandoned mines on Kootenai National Forest. Their assessment showed that contaminated water is leaking from the waste dump and into Blue Creek. Recent sampling has confirmed that the water coming from the waste dump is high in lead, zinc and arsenic.

Heavy metals contamination in the soils/waste mix is a problem because the waste dump is located immediately adjacent to the East Fork of Blue Creek. Although the waste dump is small, it is very steep, unstable and presents a risk to human health and aquatic life especially during spring runoff and other times of high flow.

The first phase of the project will be a detailed assessment of hazardous materials and an analysis of alternatives to cleanup the site. The second phase will remove the hazardous material to a drier, more stable location and reclaim the mine site.

Reclamation activities will stop heavy metals from leaching into East Fork of Blue Creek and serve to protect human health and the environment from future contamination. Disturbed areas will be revegetated with native species following completion of the restoration.

The Cabinet District is planning an open house public meeting later this fall to discuss the project. The cleanup work will be completed in 2010.

For more information, call Gary Kedish or Doug Grupenhoff at the Cabinet Ranger District at 406-827-3533.