Berkeley Pit could be a source of strategically vital rare-earth elements

Good for next to nothing but attracting hapless geese and sightseer gawks.

That’s been the Berkeley Pit.

There are few places in this wide world where voyeurs pay good money for the privilege of observing a body of toxic water.

The Berkeley Pit has long been a liability for the Butte community and the entities responsible for its present and future. Those entities include Atlantic Richfield and Montana Resources.

Schemes have floated in years past to extract minerals from the pit’s toxic stew but nothing has yielded results promising either commercial or strategic value.

Now, early stage work underway at Montana Resources to retrieve rare-earth elements from pit water seems to be gaining traction. Partners include West Virginia University, the Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology and the U.S. Department of Defense.

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Michael Calhoun (left) and Joe Peal prepare a geotube to be de-watered on Tuesday near the Horseshoe Bend Water Treatment Plant at the Montana Resources mine in Butte.

JOSEPH SCHELLER, The Montana Standard

On Tuesday morning, Robert Olson, a

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