Stage of Clean-up: Study Underway
Conditions at Proposal (February 26, 2002): The Libby Asbestos site includes an inactive vermiculite mine located on Vermiculite Mountain in northwestern Montana, and portions of the town of Libby. The mine is approximately seven miles east northeast of the town. Although mining of Vermiculite Mountain dates back to the 1890s, large-scale mining was initiated by the Zonolite Company in the 1920s. W.R. Grace acquired the Zonolite Company in 1963 and continued mining operations until September 1990. The vermiculite mine has been operating under Montana Department of State Lands Operating Permit 00010 since 1972, under a State-approved reclamation plan. Of approximately 1200 acres of patented mining claims, 865 are known to be disturbed by mining activities. The ore body from which the vermiculite ore was mined contains significant occurrences of amphibole asbestos. Processing of the vermiculite ore, with amphibole asbestos intermixed, caused high dust and airborne releases of fine asbestos fibers. These fine asbestiform fibers have been linked by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) to certain kinds of lung disease and abnormalities. Amphibole asbestos contamination associated with the ore processing has been found in processing plants, residential yards, and school yards in the town of Libby and between the mine and the town. Residences, schools, and businesses received vermiculite free of charge from W.R. Grace. More...