Montana Resources uses high tech to solve bird problem

Berkeley Pit, Butte, Montana – Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Montana Resources, a unit of The Washington Companies that operates the Continental open-pit copper and molybdenum mine in Butte, Montana, recently partnered with Fairweather IT to bring high-tech to its bird hazing program.

Since the mid-1990s, the company has run a waterfowl observation and hazing program at its 182-hectare Berkeley Pit but in late 2016, several thousand snow geese died at the toxic pit during their southerly migration. Although workers usually use explosives timed to go off before hitting the water body so that birds can move out after a resting period, this year they are looking at more innovative solutions to avoid repeating the tragic incident of two years ago.

According to a report in The Salt Lake Tribune, mine personnel together with Fairweather staff are now using a remote-controlled fan boat equipped with a camera, which should be enough for chasing birds away before their health is compromised by staying at the pit for too long. The device is also capable of retrieving the animals that die.

Since different birds are more tolerant to certain noises and disruptive events, the miner is also using a six-propeller drone whose mechanism allows operators to drop water balloons or bags of stones near the birds. There are 45 species that roam around and rest in the area.

According to the newspaper report, hazing efforts had a 99.7% success rate.

The Continental mine has been operated by Montana Resources since 1986. From the mid-80s to 2004, it produced an average of 35 kt/a Cu and 575,000 oz/year Ag. More recently, over 50,000 tonnes of ore are hauled, crushed and milled every day, producing copper concentrates as well as molybdenum concentrates. The company is currently seeking an amendment to its operating permit to allow for mining to continue for an additional 20 years, until 2040.