Just as Bannack marks the 150th anniversary of its gold-mining heritage, an international mining company announced plans to resume hunting for gold nearby.

On Friday, Dutch Gold Resources Inc. and Trelis Corp. revealed a joint venture to start bulk-sampling work along Grasshopper Creek, four miles downstream from Bannack.

“The majority of this land, all within the Bannack Mining District, has never been mined, despite the rich history of claims immediately downstream of Bannack,” Dutch Gold officials said in a written statement. “Based on the results of the bulk sample, the company hopes to mobilize equipment (in fall) 2012, with limited production (in winter) 2012.”

The project would operate under a “small miner exclusion” rule that exempts certain kinds of mining from state environmental review. Montana Department of Environmental Quality management bureau chief Warren McCullough said the rule allows placer mining disturbance of up to five acres of land and a maximum bond of $10,000.

“I expect they would excavate gravel and run it through a wash plant,” McCullough said. “They certify they won’t cause any air or water pollution by signing an affidavit with a skeleton of a plan that must be renewed every year. This is downstream from some other sites we’re aware of, so we’ll move it up in priority.”

McCullough said small miner exclusion projects range from single miners with gold pans to the Drumlummon gold mine near Helena, which has 120 people on the payroll. The joint venture has not yet submitted any paperwork on the project.

Dutch Gold also is involved in the Basin Gulch exploration near Philipsburg. Although it drilled several test holes last year, it has not issued any news or updates about its efforts there.

“A great many people announce they’re going to go up a historic gulch and mine the virgin ground,” McCullough said. “There really isn’t much virgin ground left.”

Reporter Rob Chaney can be reached at 523-5382 or at rchaney@missoulian.com.

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