Barrick Gold mining company is running a project to help clean up historic abandoned mines in Montana, by using excess capacity at its Golden Sunshine mine to process tailing piles and waste-rock piles. The program is not only saving Montana and the Federal government millions of dollars in environmental cleanup costs, its providing local jobs as subcontractors get permits to collect and haul the contaminated rock to Barrick and properly close the old mines.
The old tailings contain trace amounts of gold that were unprofitable to process at $35 an ounce or even a couple hundred dollars an ounce, but it's enough that Barrick can pay the subcontractors and carry the expense of properly storing the reprocessed rock and still manage a profit.
Since 2010, Golden Sunlight has received approximately 308,000 tons of tailings and paid out approximately $25 million to local businesses that collect and transport the material. At the same time, it has recovered just under 22,000 ounces of gold. During this period, tailings and waste rock have been removed from over 10 historic mines. “It’s a win-win situation,” says David Williams, a geologist with the Bureau of Land Management. “We’re accomplishing many of the same goals that would have cost around $800,000 to $1 million of taxpayer money just to clean up a small site.”
To discourage "wildcatters" that may not properly handle the mine sites or rocks, Barrick only purchases the old rocks from companies that hold the proper environmental permits.
Barrick’s Thompson says Golden Sunlight is excited to be involved with this project. “Economic stimulation, social responsibility, environmental stewardship – the project touches almost all of Barrick’s core values and provides opportunities for the people in the area we operate.”
(Full article on Barrick's website)