Bentonite producer near Thermopolis receives reclamation award

Posted 7/29/21

Wyo-Ben Inc. recently received the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality’s 2021 Excellence in Mining Reclamation Award for non-coal for its “excellent” work to reclaim a …

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Bentonite producer near Thermopolis receives reclamation award

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Wyo-Ben Inc. recently received the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality’s 2021 Excellence in Mining Reclamation Award for non-coal for its “excellent” work to reclaim a bentonite pit near Thermopolis.

Wyo-Ben Inc. finished most of the reclamation of Pit 101T in 2013, with additional vegetation seeding in 2015 and 2016. The company prioritized the protection of wildlife, the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) said in a news release.

“One of the reclamation goals was to establish sagebrush to provide habitat for sage grouse, as an active lek is located in close proximity to the site,” said Matt Kunze, DEQ natural resources program supervisor.

The sagebrush steppe, primary habitat of the greater sage grouse and other species, is about half the size it used to be. Scientists and engineers across the U.S. are trying to restore the habitat, with the reclamation of active and abandoned mines being a large component.

Wyo-Ben said it was “thrilled” to receive the award.

“Our mission includes being responsible stewards of the environment and is demonstrated with our drive to be on the forefront of reclamation and environmental stewardship,” the company said.

Wyo-Ben praised its employees for making the achievements possible, noting the contribution of the late Greg Sweetser of Greybull and the late Matt Call of Otto. A mining supervisor for the company for more than 36 years, Sweetser saw reclamation as an art form.

“Greg illustrated this through active participation at the mine sites from the first bucket of topsoil to the final recontoured landscape that speaks of his living legacy in the Big Horn Basin,” the statement said.

As for Call, WyoBen said the environmental supervisor acted alertly and quickly to protect a mourning dove nest, even when it caused the reclamation timeline to be adjusted.

The reclaimed land at Wyo-Ben’s pit 101T will now support many post-mine land uses, the DEQ says, “particularly serving as an oustanding location for wildlife habitat and livestock grazing.”

Headquartered in Billings, Wyo-Ben’s operations include a plant in Lovell.

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