Hydrology of Fort Belknap
The Zortman Landusky gold and silver mine has released over a dozen cyanide spills causing extensive surface and groundwater contamination, including one spill that released 52,000 gallons of cyanide solution that contaminated the drainage that supplies fresh drinking water for the town of Zortman. A mine employee discovered the accident when he noticed the smell of cyanide in his tap water at home.
In the early 1990's, the State of Montana, the Fort Belknap Tribes and the Environmental Protection Agency filed suits against the company for impacts to water resources due to long-term water quality violations, including cyanide, acids and metals. In response to these lawsuits, the company agreed to construct an additional water treatment plant, to study environmental damage to the groundwater, and to increase water quality monitoring. Unfortunately, in 1998, the company filed for bankruptcy, leaving the state of Montana with $33 million in water treatment and reclamation costs.
In 2003, the Fort Belknap tribes filed suit under the Clean Water Act again because the mine site has continued to discharge toxic pollutants into water resources. The state has determined that water pollution generated by the mine is so severe that expensive water treatment systems will have to be operated forever (Westerners for Responsible Mining).
To further investigate the hydrology of Fort Belknap, follow the links below.
Hydrology of Fort Belknap
Resources containing information about the hydrology on the Fort Belknap Reservation:
- A Mountain of Unanswered Questions: Are Health Problems of Reservation Residents Related to the Mines?
. This article from Native News addresses the possibility of why health and environmental concerns on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation may be related to water pollution from cyanide heap leach gold mining. (more info)
- Cyanide Uncertainties: Observations on the Chemistry, Toxicity, and Analysis of Cyanide in Mining-Related Waters. This article discusses the use of cyanide compounds by mining industries. The article includes information about the chemistry and toxicity of cyanide, monitoring and analysis of cyanide at mine sites, and a case study about a cyanide spill in Kyrgyzstan. Examples of recent cyanide related mine accidents, and factors affecting cyanide toxicity to freshwater fish are also included in this article. (more info)
- De-coding Cyanide: An Assessment of Gaps in Cyanide Regulation at Mines. This paper presents comments on environmental issues surrounding cyanide use in the metal mining industry, with emphasis on the various cyanide-leach processes used to extract gold and silver. Information is included about the chemical contents of impacted waters and soils, common cyanide cleanup techniques, long term impacts from cyanide, and the potential impacts to municipal waste and drinking water, and recommendations for the regulatory agencies and the mining industry. The author points out many shortcomings in both industrial practices as well as in analytical techniques and our understanding of the true effects of cyanide. (more info)
- Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for Reclamation of the Zortman and Landusky Mines.. This is the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for reclamation of the Zortman and Landusky Mines in north central Montana. The purpose of this document is to present several alternatives for the reclamation of the mine complex. The report includes the history of the site, the site geology and hydrology, a description of contamination issues, and 12 alternative plans for reclamation of the mines.
Also included are four detailed appendices, an extensive list of tables and figures, and a collection of photos from the mines.
- Geochemical Characterization and Water Quality Predictions for the Zortman/Landusky Reclamation Project.. This 16 page PDF provides information about the reclamation of the Zortman and Landusky gold mines in the Little Rocky Mountains of north-central Montana. (more info)
- Material Characterization and Prioritization of Remediation Measures at the Zortman/Landusky Mine Sites.. This 13-page PDF provides information about the reclamation of the Zortman and Landusky gold mines in the Little Rocky Mountains of north-central Montana. ( This site may be offline. )
- Modeling of Alternative Cover Scenarios for Mine Rock Piles at the Zortman and Landusky Mine Sites. This paper provides information about the reclamation of the Zortman and Landusky gold and silver mines in the little Rocky Mountains of north-central Montana that is currently on-going under the direction of the Montana Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. BLM. (more info)
- More Cyanide Uncertainties: Lessons from the Baia Mare, Romania Spill-Water Quality and Politics. This paper describes the risks associated with the use of cyanide in modern mining and asserts that governments and mining companies have not adequately addressed this growing environmental problem. The paper provides recommendations that should be followed at mines in order to provide more environmental protection. A cyanide leach mining spill at the Baia Mare mining operation in Romania is used as a case study for improvements that need to be considered. The paper also states that a report by the United Nations Environment Programme does not go far enough in providing adequate protection from cyanide spills. (more info)
- The Water Balance and Chemical Mass Loads at the Zortman and Landusky Mines, Montana. This 27-page PDF demonstrates that generalized hydrologic models can predict infiltration and water quality impacts at hardrock mine sites. (more info)
- We've Seen Enough Destruction from Mining. This High Country News article discusses the Zortman-Landusky Gold Mines owned by the now bankrupt Pegasus, and water contamination that has resulted from them. (more info)