050119 Golden Sunlight mine

Miners operate heavy machinery at Golden Sunlight mine prior to it ceasing operation.

The Golden Sunlight Mine in southern Jefferson County is on track to ship reprocessed tailings by the end of the year, after receiving approval for the project from the Montana Department of Environmental Quality earlier this month. 

In a record of decision released Sept. 13, DEQ stated that it had approved the "modified alternative" proposal that it preferred throughout its environmental impact statement analysis process, allowing Golden Sunlight to extract 26 million tons of tailings, originally produced from gold mining, and processing the tailings to extract a "gold and sulfide concentrate." Tailings will then be reburied and the land reclaimed to its original state before reprocessing, the department required. 

Golden Sunlight Site Manager Chuck Buus said in a statement following the DEQ decision that he aims to begin shipping product by the end of 2021. The concentrate, he said, will be sent to Nevada Gold Mines, the majority of which is owned by Golden Sunlight owner Barrick Gold. 

Golden Sunlight, which opened in 1982 and employed around 300 people at its peak and averaged around 150 employees, shifted from open-pit mining to underground mining in 2013 before closing in 2019. Tailings reprocessing is projected to employ at least 75 people and generate a $50 million payroll and $20 million state, local and payroll tax contribution over the project's anticipated 12-year-span, according to Golden Sunlight and state estimates. 

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