Montana will release $3 million to a mining company that started reclaiming around 2,300 acres of land from strip mining in the 90s.
Missouri-based Peabody Energy spent more than 20 years replanting grasses and restoring terrain impacted by operations at the Big Sky Mine area B near Colstrip.
Montana Department of Environmental Quality Vegetation Ecologist Mike Glenn says DEQ required 10 years to pass and changes to take root before the agency considered area B reclaimed and released the surety bond to the mining company.
“You’ve got cows out there, you’ve got antelope, you’ve got elk, you’ve got everything you can imagine running through there, and it’s all mining and reclamation, so I guess what stands out about Big Sky is it’s a fantastic kinda showpiece of where mining can go,” Glenn says.
The site also features streams, wetlands, and wells.
DEQ Hydrologist Martin Van Oort says Peabody has mitigated groundwater level changes and installed both new wells and ponds to replace the pre-mine water supplies.
Environmental advocacy group Northern Plains Resource Council says only time will tell if water quality reclamation has been successful.
As of 2017, mining has disturbed about 40,000 acres of land in Montana according to Mike Glenn with DEQ. He says companies have reclaimed about half of that.