Department of the Interior proposes continued withdrawal of the Zortman-Landusky Mine Reclamation Area
(MALTA, Mont.) –The Department of the Interior has proposed withdrawal of 2,688.13 acres of public lands in the Zortman-Landusky Mine reclamation area from location and entry of new mining claims or sites for an additional 20-year period, subject to valid existing rights. The continued withdrawal of this acreage, first approved in October of 2000, would support ongoing reclamation efforts and related analyses.
“These public lands need to be protected to enable ongoing reclamation work as quickly and cost effectively as possible. The completed reclamation efforts will stabilize the area and enable us to continue working with the Montana Department of Environmental Quality to return the area to a state that can support the area’s abundant wildlife resources,” said BLM Montana State Director John Mehlhoff.
Today’s publication of this notice in the Federal Register segregates (closes) the land to location and entry of new mining claims for up to two years. During this time, the BLM will seek public input and conduct environmental studies that will help Department of the Interior officials determine whether to issue a Public Land Order approving the withdrawal for the full 20-year period.
The mines’ operator, Zortman Mining, Inc., filed for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 11 in January of 1998. The reclamation work is being funded by the surety companies through agreements with the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and by the BLM through assistance agreement with the DEQ. Contracts for reclamation work have been issued and work is in progress.
Reclamation contracts will eventually total approximately $70 million and involve moving millions of tons of material and treating hundreds of millions of gallons of water over the next twenty years. Mine reclamation operations located on these lands include: small portions of the mine pits, large valley-filled leach pads, waste rock dumps, processing plants, water treatment plants, reclamation material stockpiles, reclamation quarry sites, an access road and support facilities.
The proposed withdrawal of 2,688.13 acres of public lands would lie entirely within the footprint of an existing withdrawal, which withdrew 3,530.62 acres of public lands in October 2000 and expired on October 4, 2020.
These lands would be withdrawn from location or entry under the United States mining laws, but not from leasing under the mineral leasing laws or mineral materials disposal under the Materials Act, subject to valid existing rights, during the initial two-year period and if approved, for the full 20 years.
The BLM will accept public comments on the proposed withdrawal for 90 days following the Federal Register notice publication date. A virtual Zoom meeting will be held December 2nd at 6:30pm Mountain Time here- http://ow.ly/UfdK50BKWsZ Meeting ID: 161 123 1600 and passcode: 683324
The BLM’s HiLine Resource Management Plan, which was approved in 2015, recommended these lands for withdrawal. The BLM will complete an environmental review of the proposed withdrawal following the 90-day public comment period initiated by the publication of the notice in the Federal Register.
For more information, please contact Tom Darrington, BLM Malta Field Office Manager, at 406-654-5131.
The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land located primarily in the 11 Western states and Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. In fiscal year 2018, the diverse activities authorized on BLM-managed lands generated $105 billion in economic output across the country. This economic activity supported 471,000 jobs and contributed substantial revenue to the U.S. Treasury and state governments, mostly through royalties on minerals.