East Helena slag ready to roll to South Korea

Excerpt from the Helena Independent Record, December 10, 2021. Read the entire article here. 

By Phil Drake

Rail cars filled with East Helena slag are expected to begin their journey next week to British Columbia and then to a smelter in South Korea, where it will be given new life as cement.

“It’s a multinational recycling project,” said Cindy Brooks, managing principal of the Montana Environmental Trust Group, which is overseeing the part of an effort to clean up the Superfund site at the former ASARCO East Helena Smelter Facility.

The trust group controls both the smelter site and ASARCO-owned lands.

At a virtual meeting, Wednesday about 57 public participants were updated in a virtual meeting about the ASARCO site.

Brooks said crushing operations of the slag began in September, filling 70 rail cars that are expected to roll next week to Vancouver, British Columbia and then ship to South Korea.

Plans are to remove 2 million tons from the site and reduce the height of the slag pile by 50%, leaving it 50 feet tall. The 2 million tons represent the most contaminated portion of the slag pile. The slag will be crushed to 2 inches in size and placed onto conveyors and then loaded onto trains.

Officials said earlier the plan is to crush 400,000 tons of unfumed slag a year, until 2025.

It will go to Korea Zinc Co. Ltd., the largest zinc-smelting facility in the world. Slag is the glasslike byproduct left over after a metal has been smelted. Once the smelting has been completed and more zinc has been recovered from the slag, the leftover inert material will go into cement manufacturing.