A proposed gold mine in the Highlands south of Butte took another step toward getting permitted on Thursday -- but decisions about hauling routes still remain.
The Montana Department of Environmental Quality issued its Final Environmental Impact Statement for the mine, which said that Basin Creek wouldn’t suffer long-term problems because of the mine’s operation and eventual closing.
The report isn’t final; the agency hopes to have a ruling on the hard rock mining permit by the end of January.
And the U.S. Forest Service still has to rule on whether haul trucks will rumble down Roosevelt Drive -- an option the county has vigorously opposed -- or Highlands and Feely roads.
The historic Highlands adit – a mine entrance that’s horizontal or nearly horizontal – would be plugged if the proposed mine goes into operation and eventually shuts down, changing flows into Basin Creek, according to the EIS. However, the adit isn’t a natural route for the water. It’s old and established, but the assessment determined that water would go back to more natural paths.
“The hydrology of that area would return to what it was before there was ever a mine there,” said Montana Environmental Policy Act Coordinator Kristi Ponozzo said. “This is a step toward the mine being potentially permitted.”
The majority of the statement is final, but the Basin Creek determination is up for public comment until Jan. 17.