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Montana Resources: Butte tailings dam not likely to fail and flood city

Posted at 8:13 PM, Jun 25, 2019

BUTTE – Could the dam holding back the 30,000 acres of mine waste and water north of Butte ever fail and flood the city?

“Everything built by man can fail,” said Mark Thompson of Montana Resources.

But it’s highly unlikely, according to Montana Resources officials, that the dam at the Yankee Doodle Tailings Impoundment could ever be breached. Concern about the dam came after the Atlantic-Richfield Co. that used to run the Butte mine called for an early warning system at the tailings impound in the event of a disaster. Montana Resources officials say there’s already a system in place.

“It’s having the effect of creating fear where no fear should exist,” said Thompson.

The massive earthen dam has about 120 monitors around it and satellite technology that can let Montana Resources know of any movement. Officials say only an event on a Biblical scale could compromise the area.

“We design for floods that have never been seen ever before, we design to earthquakes that have never happened in this area,” said Thompson.

“It’s about 700 to 750 feet high at its highest point, at the base at the high point it’s a half-mile thick. At the top, two of our 240-ton haul trucks can pass each other on the top of it and there’s still double that amount of room,” he added.

Atlantic-Richfield still plans to build an extra pumping system that can remove more water from the mine in the event of an emergency.