Date of Award

Spring 2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Mining Engineering

Committee Chair

Paul Conrad

First Advisor

Scott Rosenthal

Second Advisor

Robert Pal


This project explored the potential for developing trees tolerable to degraded un-reclaimed mine site soils and tailings as a solution to re-establishing long-term tree growth on those sites. The project incorporates growing tree seedlings in an underground greenhouse grown from seeds planted in the degraded mine soils in which they will eventually be planted. The outcome of the project is expected to lead to a successful solution for re-establishing tree growth in soils and tailings containing high metal concentrations with minimal post-planting human intervention at a relatively low cost.

The research is being conducted in an underground greenhouse located 100 feet below the surface in the Orphan Boy Mine Underground Mine Education Center (UMEC) located on Montana Tech’s campus in Butte, Montana. The underground location is unique since it maintains a constant temperature year-round and insulates the young seedlings from inclement weather. Cost effectiveness being a goal of this project, the underground greenhouse is important since it will not require supplemental heat to be operable, minimizing cost of planting trees.

Trees native to Butte are being developed from seeds and planted in the underground greenhouse. Preliminary results show high survival rates of the planted seedlings in the soils and tailings. Continuous treating promises more seedling survival and subsequent tree growth which would help revegetate sites degraded by mine site soils and tailings.


A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Mining Engineering