Date of Award

Spring 2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Environmental Engineering

Committee Chair

Daqian Jiang

First Advisor

Jeanne Larson

Second Advisor

Glenn Shaw


Water management within the Mining Industry is an important issue. Operating a mine is a water intensive process and in order to meet the goals of mining operations, water resources must be tracked and monitored, not only to comply with state and federal regulations, but also to optimize the mining operations. Sibanye-Stillwater (formerly known as Stillwater Mining Company) operates two underground mines, the Stillwater Mine and the East Boulder Mine, both located in the Beartooth Mountain Range of South Central Montana. The East Boulder Mine targets platinum group metals found within the J-M Reef geological formation. This thesis focuses on developing an operational, site wide water balance for the Easter Boulder Mine under base flow conditions as well as different proposed flow scenarios. Flow data from 2015 was provided by Sibanye-Stillwater to quantify the water balance and model the proposed flow scenarios. Since the mine is operational, historical data can be used to quantify many of the uncertainties associated with creating a water balance, therefore minimizing the need of probabilistic software and allowing for the use of Microsoft Excel to be used to create the water balance.

Different flow scenarios were proposed with the intention to improve water treatment plant operating efficiencies. An onsite water treatment plant is used to remove contaminants in the water caused by the underground mining operations. Nitrate, a byproduct of the underground blasting agent, is the main contaminate of concern for the East Boulder Mine. The proposed flow scenarios focused on the effects of changing the flow direction of the mine adit water within the system.

The results of the water balance indicate that it is possible to improve water treatment plant operating efficiencies by changing the onsite mine water flow direction. This research also identified the need for additional onsite flow monitoring and improvements made to the flow monitoring database. The results of this research can be used to make informed decisions in regards to mine operation and water resource management. The results of this thesis show that a water balance can be performed on an operational mine site and highlight possible improvements that can be made to water flow paths that may result in improved operational performance.


A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Masters of Science in Environmental Engineering