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Month: September 2013

The Montana Bureau of Mines & Geology (MBMG) developed this computer model showing Butte topography and the corresponding underground tunnels from the years of historic underground mining.

Computer Model Shows Berkeley Pit & Butte Mine Tunnels

The Montana Bureau of Mines & Geology (MBMG) developed this computer model showing Butte topography and the corresponding underground tunnels from the years of historic underground mining. The red dots at the surface and red lines below represent vertical shafts, and the colored lines under the surface represent the horizontal levels of the mines. The graphic does not illustrate stopes or other lateral workings. The Berkeley Pit can be seen as the large depression at center-right. As illustrated, the deepest underground mines went down about one mile, far below the final depth of the Berkeley Pit.

The Montana Bureau of Mines & Geology (MBMG) developed this computer model showing Butte topography and the corresponding underground tunnels from the years of historic underground mining.
The Montana Bureau of Mines & Geology (MBMG) developed this computer model showing Butte topography and the corresponding underground tunnels from the years of historic underground mining.

Note for teachers and educators: This image is also available on the third poster in the Berkeley Pit Educational Poster series.

The water level in the Berkeley Pit in 2013, compared to the Critical Water Level. Current projections show that the water level in one of the monitoring compliance points around the Pit, such as the Pilot Butte or Anselmo mine shafts, will reach the critical level around 2023, triggering pumping-and-treating of Pit water to maintain its level below the critical point. Photo by Ted Duaime of the Montana Department of Mines & Geology.

Current and Critical Water Level Comparison

The 2013 print edition of PitWatch included the following photo from the Montana Bureau of Mines & Geology (MBMG), intended to show the current water level relative to the Critical Water Level.

The water level of the Berkeley Pit in 2012, compared to the Critical Water Level for the Berkeley Pit system. Image from the Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology.
The water level of the Berkeley Pit in 2012, compared to the Critical Water Level for the Berkeley Pit system.

Some PitWatch readers asked for a version of this image that used a current photo of the Berkeley water level, and MBMG created this new image to better illustrate the current and critical levels.

The water level in the Berkeley Pit in 2013, compared to the Critical Water Level. Current projections show that the water level in one of the monitoring compliance points around the Pit, such as the Pilot Butte or Anselmo mine shafts, will reach the critical level around 2023, triggering pumping-and-treating of Pit water to maintain its level below the critical point. Photo by Ted Duaime of the Montana Department of Mines & Geology.
The water level in the Berkeley Pit in 2013, compared to the Critical Water Level. Current projections show that the water level in one of the monitoring compliance points around the Pit, such as the Pilot Butte or Anselmo mine shafts, will reach the critical level around 2023, triggering pumping-and-treating of Pit water to maintain its level below the critical point. Photo by Ted Duaime of the Montana Department of Mines & Geology.

Under the management plan for the Berkeley Pit, the water level in the Pit itself will never reach that critical level. Because water levels in some of the compliance monitoring points around the Pit are consistently higher than the level in the Pit itself, it is extremely likely that water at one of those monitoring points (such as the Pilot Butte or Anselmo mine shafts) will reach the critical level while the Berkeley Pit water level is still several feet below it. When the water level at any compliance point reaches the critical level (current projections put this time at 2023), pumping-and-treating of Berkeley Pit water will begin, maintaining the level in the Pit below the critical level.

Smithsonian.com: Toxic Runoff Yellow and Other Paint Colors Sourced from Polluted Streams

Artist John Sabraw uses paint made from the toxic runoff in streams located near abandoned coal mines in his abstract paintings. Chroma S1 1, by John Sabraw. Image courtesy of the artist.
Artist John Sabraw uses paint made from the toxic runoff in streams located near abandoned coal mines in his abstract paintings. Chroma S1 1, by John Sabraw. Image courtesy of the artist.

PitWatch reader Coleen Christensen pointed out this blog from the Smithsonian about a possible use for acid mine drainage stream waters. Streams near the Berkeley Pit were similarly impacted during historic mining activities.

Read the full blog here.