Company Wants to Expand Gold Exploration Near Butte

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – A company that wants to mine gold 15 miles south of Butte is seeking state approval to tunnel below ground for further mineral exploration.

Timberline Resources Corp. of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, wants the Montana Department of Environmental Quality to amend the company’s permit, to allow exploratory work beyond surface drilling. The company’s application is under review, DEQ said.

Timberline began the first phase of drilling for its Butte Highlands Gold Project in 2007. Drilling by ASARCO and other companies took place in the 1980s and 1990s, Timberline Chairman John Swallow said.

“In today’s dollars, roughly $10 million worth of work has been done on the property,” Swallow said.

The exploration proposal includes 60,000 feet of underground drilling. The amended permit would allow removal of up to 10,000 tons of ore.

Timberline has patented and unpatented claims on about 1,300 acres, roughly 270 acres of which is land Timberline owns, Swallow said. A joint venture for development of Butte Highlands is being formed with Small Mine Development LLC, an underground mine development and production contractor based in Boise, Idaho, he said.

Mining in the area of the proposed Butte Highlands project occurred years ago, ending around the time of World War II, said Bob Cronholm of DEQ’s Environmental Management Bureau.

Timberline would “disturb” up to about 50 acres, all privately owned, by constructing buildings, drilling holes and doing other work, Cronholm said. Access would require use of U.S. Forest Service roads.

DEQ plans to prepare an environmental assessment. The agency also must calculate the bond that would be required as a way to finance reclamation, such as revegetating the land, if the company did not do the work.

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