BUTTE - It’s ugly, it’s dirty, it’s slag.
And people in Butte and Anaconda have been living with it for years, but now Montana Tech in Butte recently received a federal grant to try to find new value in this waste material.
“Naturally we’re super excited and I think we are very confident of success,” said Montana Tech Metallurgical Professor Avimanyu Das.
The U.S. Dept. of Energy awarded the Butte university more than $700,000 to find innovative ways to recover valuable metals from slag. Slag is the waste product left over from the smelting of ore for copper and steel.
Tech's metallurgical department will take this slag and remove more precious metals from it. This will also make the slag better for recycling.
“It’s beneficial from an environmental issue as well because slag if it lies there for a number of years, it starts leaching into the groundwater,” said Das.
The university will use the funds to buy equipment, materials, and pay students working on the project. If successful, this process will have a great economic benefit.
“The waste material, it doesn’t cost anything; in fact, people will be eager to donate any slag if we request,” said Das.
The three-year project will also be a benefit to students involved with it.
“They will get skilled with that education both in the classroom and in the laboratory, so when they graduate, they will be fully equipped to handle future responsibilities,” he said.