Arizona Company Plans Silver and Zinc Mine in Montana

By Beacon Staff

BUTTE – An Arizona-based mining company proposing underground silver and zinc mining in Montana has asked Butte-Silver Bow County to lease it the surface and mineral rights to hundreds of acres.

International Silver Inc. President Roy Shipes told county commissioners Wednesday that the Tucson, Ariz., firm has been buying land and mineral rights in Butte for several years and now has enough property to mine up to 1,000 tons of ore per day.

With the leases, his company foresees mining 3,000 tons of ore per day, creating hundreds of jobs and generating $100 million in annual revenue.

“We think there are reserves here for many, many years,” he said. “We’re looking at $100 million in investment here.”

Harrison Matson, the company’s chief geologist, said the county land is needed to reach the project’s full potential.

“Because of the widespread nature of the ore bodies, we’re pretty well hamstrung as to what we can do without county ground,” he said.

Matson said the mine would generate taxes for the county while providing up to 350 jobs during construction and 200 jobs throughout the life of the mine, which could operate 20 years or longer.

The Montana Standard reports several commissioners supported the project, while some raised environmental concerns.

Those with concerns said Butte already has suffered the impacts of mining. While the project could bring needed jobs, there could be some negatives, as well, and the project needs a careful review.

“I’m not some crazy environmentalist who wants to stop all mining,” Commissioner Dan Foley said. “We all need jobs, but we also need to be aware of the negative impacts of mining.”

Shipes said the mine plan can be crafted to have minimal impacts on neighborhoods and the environment, and water from underground will be used for the processing.

The company plans to hire eight to 10 engineers immediately and establish an office in Butte, he said. Construction of a processing plant could begin next year and mining could start in about 2 1/2 years, Shipes said.

The 10 commissioners did not immediately approve any leases but voted unanimously to take the initial step of preparing a developer’s packet for the county properties.

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