Mining crews are scheduled to begin exploration work this week on unpatented claims up Mill Creek Road in the Smuggler Mine area east of Sheridan to conduct a bulk sampling for evaluation of mineral values.
The approved plan of operations submitted by claim holder Melvin Hunt of Levan, Utah allows for the removal of up to 10,000 tons of ore, which will be removed through a previously closed portal in the mine.
Madison Ranger District spokesman Kevin Suzuki explained that some of the rocks removed to access the portal will be used to improve the road between the opening and the Mill Creek Road, with fairly minimal ground disturbance.
“They’ve done some core drilling up there in the past, so this is kind of the next phase in the explorations to take a larger sample,” Suzuki said. “Once they get the ore body, they’ll take out the tonnage they need to do the sampling.”
This phase in the mining process will determine whether or not the operation is economically viable to move in to a production phase, he added.
“It’s really just a start of potentially more mining activity up there, but again this is still in the exploration phase, so there will most likely be some more analysis done in the future.”
A press release issued by the Beaverhead Deerlodge National Forest Office said that the bulk sample may require up to 700 truckloads of ore from the mine, and hauling will take place Monday through Friday except for weekends and holidays. Travelers are advised to be cautious while driving in this area.
Suzuki estimated the core sampling could be done within a year, but may be completed sooner.
“If everything goes right they’ll be done by the end of this summer,” he said, adding that much of the timeline depends on how fast crews will be working.
“This is only for a bulk sampling,” Suzuki said. “If they find it is economical to move into production with the ore bodies there, we will have to do another environmental assessment for bringing that project into production.”
If the mineral values do not warrant further exploration at the end of the sampling process, the mine portal will be sealed and all exterior structures and equipment will be removed. For more information contact Kevin Suzuki at 682-4253.