Conservation groups, landowners unite against East Boulder Mine tailings dams
The blue-green shine of mine tailings can be seen from a vantage point at the East Boulder Mine. The owners of the mine, Sibanye-Stillwater, are increasing the size of the tailings facility and plan to add two more sites.
The platinum and palladium mine — one of only a few in the world — is located on Custer Gallatin National Forest lands in Sweet Grass County. The mine’s owners, the Sibanye Stillwater Mining Co., is seeking permission from the agency and the Montana Department of Environmental Quality to expand its tailings facility in Lewis Gulch and Dry Fork, a total of about 470 acres. The storage areas are meant to allow the mine to operate through 2045 and 2047, respectively.
In a press release issued Tuesday, Earthworks, Montana Trout Unlimited and downstream landowners urged the agencies to consider requiring Sibanye to use dry or filtered tailings. That would remove water from the waste rock so if there was a dam failure there wouldn’t be a catastrophic flood of tainted water surging downstream.
“The Boulder Valley is