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Rock Creek Mine gets DEQ approval

by Canda Harbaugh & Western News
| January 12, 2009 11:00 PM

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality approved changes to the Rock Creek Mine’s draft Environmental Assessment last month, granting conditional approval to begin digging an adit, part of the project’s first phase.

While DEQ’s approval completes all permitting sought by Revett Minerals, Rock Creek Mine still faces several obstacles before digging can begin. The company must post a reclamation bond, implement the DEQ stipulations and win ongoing litigation against environmental groups.

The DEQ approved two new major requirements to the construction of the adit, a tunnel that will be used to evaluate whether or not ore is present in the mine. The first requires monitoring and treating the site groundwater.

“The changes, for the most part, consist of how they are going to handle water coming into the adit,” said Herb Rolfes of the DEQ Management Bureau. “Previously, it was approved that a pipe will go directly into Rock Creek. Now, they have to treat the water and put it in percolation ponds.”

Revett will also be responsible for improving 2.5 miles of Rock Creek Road, which leads to the adit site. The road will be upgraded to meet U.S. Forest Service standards, which includes widening corners, installing new culverts and resurfacing. 

In total, the first phase of the project will encompass almost 20 acres of land. The project will disturb 10.6 acres at the adit site, which will be outside the Cabinet Mountain Wilderness area and include new access roads and a septic system.

A little over five acres will be involved in road improvements, an acre for the new groundwater disposal site and more than three acres for the support facilities area.

Located near Noxon, the copper and silver mine lies on private land and 148 acres of U.S. Forest Service land on the edge of the Cabinet Mountain Wilderness. Revett said the mine will employ about 250-300 people.