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Butte miners keep working, powering through extremely cold temperatures

Though the extreme cold doesn’t stop mining operations at Montana Resources, it does sometimes cause equipment failures.
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Posted at 9:50 AM, Jan 13, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-15 12:26:21-05

BUTTE — Well, it’s 20 below zero in Butte, Montana—not a great time to be outside. But this is the Mining City and the folks here at Montana Resources never stop. Not even for the weather.

“We never stop. We’re 24/7, 365 days a year. You know, Butte gets this kind of weather, we’ve dealt with it before and we know how to do it, we know how to keep going,” said Montana Resources VP of Human Resources Mike McGivern.

Denim Hellyer has been driving a haul truck for the mine for 20 years and is prepared for cold shifts.

“Pretty much business as normal, you just dress for the weather. Dress so you don’t freeze. Dress like you would if you was going ice fishing or something,” said Hellyer.

Though the extreme cold doesn’t stop the mining operations, it sometimes causes equipment failures.

“Once in a while the machines get so cold they can’t run, the shovels and stuff, but we try to keep everything going. Once things go down it’s hard to get them back up in this weather,” said Hellyer.

The recent arctic blast caused some plumbing issues at the mine.

“We had a frozen waterline to the lab, and I guess if that’s the worst thing we have today then it’s going to be a good day,” said McGivern.

Special trucks lay fresh gravel on the roads to prevent the haul trucks from slipping. Still, conditions were so cold that morning that Hellyer said his giant haul truck began sliding backwards at one point. He had to act fast.

“I knew if I touched my back right wheels to the berm it would just spin me around and straighten me out going downhill. There was no one behind me, so I was able to basically just spin it around and go down the hill,” said Hellyer.

They emphasize safety at the mine, especially on days when it’s not safe to be outside for very long.

“The mines got to keep on track. You hope the guys can be inside and be in their equipment and we don’t have problems outside,” said McGivern.