In the last PITWATCH, we described Berkeley Pit-related research efforts that have been undertaken locally at Montana Tech, the Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology, and MSE. But Butte residents may not be aware that the Berkeley Pit is literally world-famous in the mine waste cleanup industry. Research groups around the world have used the water to perform tests and demonstrate the effectiveness of their technologies.
The Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology is in charge of handling requests for Berkeley Pit water, and in the past 10 years, the Bureau has shipped over 150 batches (about 5 gallons each) of Pit water to researchers around the globe. Just in the last year, the Bureau has shipped water to the following groups:
• Virotec International (Australia, seawater-neutralized bauxite water treatment process)
• Electrometals Technologies (Australia, electrowinning process for copper recovery)
• Biomet Mining (Canada, biosulfide process for copper and zinc recovery)
• University of Cincinnati (Cincinnati, Ohio, sulfate-reducing bacteria process for copper and zinc recovery)
• Ion Separations (Virginia City, Montana, proprietary water treatment/metals recovery process)
• MSE Technology Applications (Butte, Montana, evaluation of returning settled slurry from lime treatment to the Berkeley Pit)
• U.S. Geological Survey (Kearneysville, West Virginia, water treatment process using limestone in carbon dioxide-pressurized reactor)
• Notre Dame University (South Bend, Indiana, testing of biomass materials for absorption of metals)
• Eltron Research (Boulder, Colorado, electrolytic metals removal process)
• Seaspan International (Canada, proprietary process)
• Montana Tech (Butte, Montana, various projects evaluating cleanup options)
Since the State of Montana considers Berkeley Pit water to be hazardous waste, shipments of the water must comply with EPA and Department of Transportation requirements.