The proposed slag processing plant that Premier Industries LLC wants to build on 93 acres of land along Mill Creek Highway could soon reach a new milestone, albeit a small one.
Representatives for the project will appear before Anaconda’s planning board Monday night, at which time they’ll ask for a major development permit.
Chas Ariss, planning director for Anaconda-Deer Lodge County, calls the development permit an “intermediate” milestone when given a spectrum of milestones.
“They still have to submit a full set of engineering plans and specifications for all the structures,” said Ariss, noting that the company will need building permits in order to construct anything on the property.
But if approved, the planning director said, the major development permit will inch the company one step closer to the construction phase of the project.
In preparation for Monday night’s public hearing, Ariss and his staff have reviewed preliminary site plans, including the estimated dimensions of buildings, the position and direction of lighting, plans for sewer and water, and progress on environmental and transportation permitting, among other items.
For now, planning documents show, plans call for a main plant of 60,100 square feet, along with a warehouse, office, maintenance shop, and parking lot with 142 parking stalls. Similarly, information submitted to the Montana Department of Transportation estimates that the plant will have four shifts of 60 workers when functioning at maximum capacity, resulting in 240 employees traveling to and from the facility per day.
Planning documents also show the project has so far been granted one permit from the Montana Department of Environmental Quality — a general stormwater construction permit. The project is also anticipated to need permits for public water and air quality, which the company has not yet applied for, according to DEQ spokesperson Kristi Ponozzo.
But what planning documents don’t indicate is how many furnaces the company plans to open with and what kind of emissions are anticipated to come from Premier’s process, which its backers have said will turn slag from Anaconda’s slag heaps into proppant, a material used to frack oil and natural gas, and pig iron.
That information won’t become available until there’s an air quality permit in hand, the planning director said.
As for Monday night’s public hearing, Ariss said that he and his staff will recommend moving the permit to the next stage in the process to the planning board. Afterward, Ariss said, planning board members will make their own set of recommendations to the county commission, who gets the final say on the major development permit. At that juncture, Ariss said, plans on size and scope of the facility will be finalized and necessary permits with DEQ should be in the bag, caveats that he and his staff are recommending as conditions for approval.
Meanwhile, Premier spokesperson Bob Kelly said Thursday that the major develop permit will allow the company to move forward with other permitting processes with state and local agencies.
Nonetheless, a facility operating at maximum capacity remains a goal on the horizon. Kelly said that earthwork efforts at the site remain ongoing and that it’s still too early to tell when the construction phase will begin.