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lime truck

Trucks filled with lime are ready to go into the Horseshoe Bend Water Treatment Plant in 2015. Dennis Washington's company, Washington Limestone Resources, is now in the permitting process for a proposed lime mine near Drummond. It will supply lime to Montana Resources some time in the future.

In an area with few job opportunities, Dennis Washington’s company has a lime mine in the works outside of Drummond, though it may be some years before it comes to fruition, say company officials.

The new mine will be about 55 miles west of Butte, very close to the tiny town of Drummond. The new mine is expected to create approximately 30 to 40 jobs, said Mark Thompson, Montana Resources vice president for environmental affairs.

The lime mine will be its own independent company called Montana Limestone Resources. It will operate under the umbrella of the Washington Corporation, based in Missoula.

The new mine will sell lime to Montana Resources, which needs an ongoing, long-term source of the mineral to treat water.

MR uses lime in the Horseshoe Bend Water Treatment plant, which currently treats contaminated water coming from an area of the mine known as Horseshoe Bend. By treating that water, MR and Atlantic Richfield Company have slowed down the rise of the Berkeley Pit. The water treatment plant drops the metals out of about 4.5 million gallons a day.

When the Berkeley Pit pilot project gets going early next year, 3 million gallons of Berkeley Pit water will run through the plant per day. The water coming from the Horseshoe Bend stream will, instead, be diverted to travel up to Yankee Doodle Tailings pond.

There, it will also be treated with lime. Thompson said that will enable the responsible parties to have flexibility, so if the plant goes down for any reason, all the water can be sent to the tailings pond for treatment or vice versa.

MR also uses lime in the mill workings.

Lime drops heavy metals out of the water. It is a process that is standard industry practice.

Thompson said that the mine has been in the works for five or six years. MR currently gets its lime from a mine near Townsend.

Montana Limestone Resources won’t be opening any time soon, because the mine has a contract with its current supplier. Thompson did not have a projected start date.

Kristi Ponozzo, spokesperson for the Department of Environmental Quality, said the agency still has to do an environmental assessment, and that could take up to a year.

But if all goes well, Montana Limestone Resources could be fully permitted by 2020.

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Nat'l Resources / General Reporter

Environmental and natural resources reporter for the Montana Standard.

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