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Month: August 2000

Meet Our Science Fair Winners
 (2000)

PitWatch Issue Volume 5, Number 1

The Committee awarded $50 savings bonds to each of these grade school students and a $250 savings bond to the high school winner. Their science fair projects all explored important topics related to the Berkeley Pit. Congratulations, and keep up the good work! The Committee will offer awards again at the 2001 Science Fair, and students are encouraged to choose projects related to the Pit for next year’s competition.

Emily Munday 5th grade, Kennedy Elementary Food for Trout: a comparative benthic invertebrate surveyEmily Munday
5th grade, Kennedy Elementary
Food for Trout: a comparative benthic invertebrate survey

Tim Obstar 6th grade, Hillcrest Elementary We Otter Clean the WaterTim Obstar
6th grade, Hillcrest Elementary
We Otter Clean the Water

Charlie Larson 7th grade, East Middle School How Much Sludge is in the Pit Water?Charlie Larson
7th grade, East Middle School
How Much Sludge is in the Pit Water?

Donna Driggers 8th grade, East Middle School What are the Effects of the Berkeley Pit Water on Plant Life?Donna Driggers
8th grade, East Middle School
What are the Effects of the Berkeley Pit Water on Plant Life?

Brian Wheeler 11th Grade, Butte Central High School Effectiveness of Berkeley Pit Water Remediation Methods: Lime Precipitation, Reverse Osmosis, Copper CementationBrian Wheeler
11th Grade, Butte Central High School
Effectiveness of Berkeley Pit Water Remediation Methods: Lime Precipitation, Reverse Osmosis, Copper Cementation

The Berkeley Pit in 1979-80, several years before the closure of the mine. Photo from the Library of Congress, Aug 79 Jan 80 Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) shoot.

Ongoing Research Projects at the Pit

PitWatch Issue Volume 5, Number 1

The Berkeley Pit in 1979-80, several years before the closure of the mine. Photo from the Library of Congress, Aug 79 Jan 80 Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) shoot.
The Berkeley Pit in 1979-80, several years before the closure of the mine.

The Berkeley Pit is one of the most high-profile examples of the adverse impacts of mining. Although the Berkeley Pit Superfund site is currently in a simple monitoring mode, an extensive amount of work is performed locally related to the understanding and remediation of the Pit and similar systems.

Ongoing projects include:
•    treatability studies including metals recovery and in-situ treatment
•    use of photocatalytic reactions to enhance water treatment
•    demonstration of innovative technologies, such as a Biosulfide process for recovery of copper sulfide, zinc sulfide and sodium hydrosulfide products
•    vertical and seasonal characterizations of Pit water
•    biological surveys
•    remediation using algae
•    wall-rock interaction with water
•    evaluation of organic carbon in the Pit
•    use of neural networks to simulate the Pit system.

For more information about these and other projects, contact MaryAnn Harrington-Baker, EPA’s Mine Waste Technology Program at MSE Technology Applications, (406) 494-7240, James Madison, Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology, (406) 496-4619, and Steve Anderson, Montana Tech Mine Waste Technology Program, (406) 496-4409.

The Berkeley Pit in Butte, Montana, 1984. Photo from Fritz Daily.

Mining Suspension Changes Treatment Plans

The Berkeley Pit in Butte, Montana, 1984. Photo from Fritz Daily.
The Berkeley Pit in Butte, Montana, 1984.

PitWatch Volume 5, Number 2

In July 2000, Montana Resources suspended mining operations. The suspension has had a direct impact on the Berkeley Pit water levels and efforts are underway to deal with the problem.

The immediate concern is treating the Horseshoe Bend water, which had been diverted away from the Berkeley Pit since 1996. Based on data from July 1 to September 30, 2000, about four to five million gallons per day is entering the Pit from the Horseshoe Bend flow. Montana Resources had been treating this water as part of its mine operations.

Berkeley Pit water

Berkeley Pit is the “Olympics” of Testing Treatment Technology

Berkeley Pit waterPitWatch Volume 5, Number 2

In the last PITWATCH, we described Berkeley Pit-related research efforts that have been undertaken locally at Montana Tech, the Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology, and MSE. But Butte residents may not be aware that the Berkeley Pit is literally world-famous in the mine waste cleanup industry. Research groups around the world have used the water to perform tests and demonstrate the effectiveness of their technologies.

The Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology is in charge of handling requests for Berkeley Pit water, and in the past 10 years, the Bureau has shipped over 150 batches (about 5 gallons each) of Pit water to researchers around the globe. Just in the last year, the Bureau has shipped water to the following groups:
•    Virotec International (Australia, seawater-neutralized bauxite water treatment process)
•    Electrometals Technologies (Australia, electrowinning process for copper recovery)
•    Biomet Mining (Canada, biosulfide process for copper and zinc recovery)
•    University of Cincinnati (Cincinnati, Ohio, sulfate-reducing bacteria process for copper and zinc recovery)
•    Ion Separations (Virginia City, Montana, proprietary water treatment/metals recovery process)
•    MSE Technology Applications (Butte, Montana, evaluation of returning settled slurry from lime treatment to the Berkeley Pit)
•    U.S. Geological Survey (Kearneysville, West Virginia, water treatment process using limestone in carbon dioxide-pressurized reactor)
•    Notre Dame University (South Bend, Indiana, testing of biomass materials for absorption of metals)
•    Eltron Research (Boulder, Colorado, electrolytic metals removal process)
•    Seaspan International (Canada, proprietary process)
•    Montana Tech (Butte, Montana, various projects evaluating cleanup options)

Since the State of Montana considers Berkeley Pit water to be hazardous waste, shipments of the water must comply with EPA and Department of Transportation requirements.