Proposed Elbow Lake Aggregate Project

The Montana Department of Transportation bid and awarded a contract to reconstruct a portion of Montana Highway 83 near Salmon Lake. The project was awarded to Kiewit, who has subcontracted LHC, Inc., to provide aggregate for the project. 

LHC, Inc. applied for an aggregate take and remove permit from the Minerals Management Bureau of the DNRC. LHC, Inc., also successfully applied for an opencut mining permit  to the Montana DEQ's Opencut Mining Bureau for an Opencut Permit. The proposed project area is in the NE4NE4 of Section 20, Township 15N, Range 14W. 

The Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation has completed the environmental assessment for the aggregate take and remove permit application by LHC, Inc. Following the Montana Environmental Policy Act, the Department selected the action alternative and will issue an aggregate take and remove permit in accordance with all applicable laws.

The final environmental assessment which serves as the MEPA decision document.

Environmental Assessment

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Explanation of Permits

To mine aggregate on State Trust Lands in Montana, an operator must obtain two separate permits. The first permit is issued by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), it is required for any opencut operation in the state. It sets forth parameters for operation, bonding, and reclamation.

DEQ Opencut Mining Permit

The second permit is a requirement of DNRC for proposed mining actions to occur on Montana State Trust Lands. This permit is administered through the Minerals Management Bureau and sets forth a contract of payment for aggregate royalties. It may also include further stipulations as implemented by the Department beyond those required through the opencut permit.


Environmental Considerations

Per the Montana Environmental Policy Act (MEPA), state agencies are required to conduct an environmental analysis of proposed permits and projects to consider all factors necessary in making a decision. For this project, LHC Inc., is applying to the Montana DEQ for an opencut mining permit and to the Montana DNRC's Minerals Management Bureau for an aggregate take and remove permit. Both agencies will conduct separate environmental assessments during the permitting application process which are used to inform the decision on whether or not to issue the permit.

Public Involvement


Scoping of the permit application began on March 8, 2023, with a 30-day public comment period from March 16 – April 16, 2023.

Initial proposal scoping notice letters were sent to potential affected interests on March 9, 2023. A press release was issued in the Missoulian (Missoula, MT) March 10, 2023, and the Seeley Pathfinder (Seeley Lake, MT) on March 16, 2023. A legal scoping notice was published in the Seeley Pathfinder (Seeley, MT) and the Missoulian (Missoula, MT) on March 16, 2023.

A 30-day public comment period was opened on March 16, 2023, and closed on April 16, 2023. Comments were collected via mail, and Microsoft forms (digitally). Public comment has been included in the environmental assessment as Appendix A. Each comment was read and analyzed to develop the resource issues and concerns within. They were then categorized based off commonality between comments.

Project Consideration

When Montana was accepted into the Union through the Enabling Act in 1889, the Congress of the United States granted to the state of Montana, for Common Schools (K-12) support, sections 16 and 36 in every township of the state. Today, the The Trust Lands Management Division of the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation oversees the management of 5.2 million surface acres and 6.2 million subsurface acres of the lands known as State Trust Lands. Trust Lands remain working lands that are leased to create revenue from a variety of activities. One of the many sources of revenue generated on Trust Lands is through sand, gravel and rock (aggregate) royalties. The Trust receives a dollar amount for every cubic yard of aggregate extracted and removed from state lands. The Trust that would benefit from potential gravel royalties on this project is the Pine Hills School.

Consideration of projects like this align with the Trust's fiduciary mandate as outlined within MCA 77-1-601 "It is in the best interest and to the great advantage of the state of Montana to seek the highest development of state-owned lands in order that they might be placed to their highest and best use and thereby derive greater revenue for the support of the common schools, the university system, and other institutions benefiting therefrom, and that in so doing the economy of the local community as well as the state is benefited as a result of the impact of such development."



Contact Zack Winfield for questions on the project.

Zack Winfield
Petroleum Engineer, PE

LHC, Inc. Aggregate Take and Remove Permit Application