An Arizona mining company is proposing underground mining for silver and zinc in Butte that its president says would bring 200 jobs and generate $100 million in annual revenue.
Roy Shipes, president of International Silver, Inc. based in Tucson, Ariz., told Butte-Silver Bow commissioners Wednesday that his company plans to mine 3,000 tons of ore per day when it’s up and running. The mine would use existing mine yards including the Anselmo, Kelley and Mountain Con in an operation that Shipes said could last for decades.
“We think there are reserves here for many, many years,” he said. “We’re looking at $100 million in investment here.”
Shipes is asking the county to consider leasing both the surface and mineral rights on hundreds of acres of land to bolster the operation. He said for several years his company has been buying land and mineral rights in Butte and doing analysis to determine whether it can be mined profitably.
He told commissioners the company has enough land and mineral rights to mine up to 1,000 tons of ore per day. The county leases would allow the company to get to 3,000 tons per day.
The company would use the Kelley mine yard as its main industrial site where the trucks and large equipment would be based, said Harrison Matson, chief geologist. He said the plan calls for using the Mountain Con for miners to get into and out of the mines, while the Anselmo would be used to vent the shafts. A processing plant would be built on land the company owns west of Big Butte with the ore hauled over there.
Matson said the company needs the county leases to reach its full potential.
“Because of the widespread nature of the ore bodies we’re pretty well hamstrung as to what we can do without county ground,” he said.
But he added that International Silver will be careful not to tear up any of the areas that have been reclaimed. Matson said the mine could generate significant taxes for the county while providing up to 350 jobs during the construction phase and 200 jobs throughout mining. That could last up to 20 years or longer.
“We could make this a long-term mining project that would put Butte back into business in the underground mining business,” Matson said.
Matson also added the mine would have minimal impacts in town because it will be entirely done underground. The company will stay above the water level and use water from the mine shafts for its operations.
International Silver would take over the maintenance for the mine shafts, Matson said.
Commissioners voted 10-0 to prepare a developer’s packet for the county properties in question. Several said they are fully supportive of the potential project and the jobs and tax revenue it could bring to Butte.
“This is a really exciting opportunity for Butte,” Commissioner Chairman Dave Palmer said.
But several commissioners, while optimistic, said they wanted to proceed with caution. They said Butte has suffered the impacts of mining and while the project could bring needed jobs, there could be some negatives as well and the project needs a careful review.
“I’m not some crazy environmentalist who wants to stop all mining,” Commissioner Dan Foley said. “We all need jobs, but we also need to be aware of the negative impacts of mining.”
But Shipes said with careful engineering the mine can be crafted to have minimal impacts on neighborhoods and the environment. He said they will use water from underground for the processing and when that’s done it must be heavily treated to clean it up.
“Mining today is not what mining was 50 years ago,” he said. “The federal government and state government regulate mining very strictly now.”
Shipes said they plan to hire eight to 10 engineers immediately to begin mapping underground in Butte, and establish an office in Butte. If everything moves forward construction of the processing plant could begin next year and mining could commence in about two and a half years.
He added they will bring some key staff members, but the company plans to mostly hire both engineers and other workers from Butte.
About the company
The following profile of International Silver is posted on marketwatch.com:
The International Silver, Inc. is a mineral exploration and development company that searches for mineral deposits of precious metals.
It is engaged in the acquisition, exploration, and development of silver properties in the United States. The company owns the Pan American Silver Mine, Prince Mine and Caselton Concentrator collectively known as the Pioche Mines Project, an exploration stage silver, gold, lead, zinc and manganese project near Lincoln County, Nev. The area is about 200 miles north of Las Vegas.
It also has the Calico Silver Project in San Bernardino County, Calif.
The company was formerly known as Western States Engineering and Construction, Inc. and changed its name to International Silver, Inc. on June 16, 2006.
International Silver was founded by John A. McKinney and Harold Roy Shipes on Sept. 4, 1992, and is headquartered in Tucson, Ariz.
— Reporter Nick Gevock may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org