Montana is renowned for its pristine rivers, wild trout, and spectacular scenery. But the Smith River tops the list. It’s the only river in Montana that requires a permit because the public demand to experience this extraordinary place is so high.
A foreign owned mining company wants to build a copper sulfide mine at the headwaters, putting this river at risk from long-term water pollution, particularly acid mine drainage – which is highly toxic to fish.
The State of Montana is taking public comment until Nov. 16 on the scope of issues that should be considered in the environmental review. It’s urgent that you take a few minutes, and tell the Montana DEQ that it needs to conduct a rigorous review of the long-term harm that threatens our Smith River!
A small Canadian company, Tintina Resources, has partnered with Australian mining firm Sandfire Resources and applied to develop a large copper mine directly adjacent to and underneath Sheep Creek at the headwaters of the Smith River in central Montana. The project, known as the Black Butte Copper Mine, is located approximately 20 miles north of White Sulphur Springs in central Montana.
The proposed mine is particularly a concern because the mine will have to dig into sulfide minerals which, when exposed to air and water, can react to form sulfuric acid in a process known as acid mine drainage. Acid mine drainage is highly toxic to fish and other aquatic life.
Tintina is also planning a major expansion from its original application materials. Tintina has purchased thousands of acres of additional mineral interests in the Smith River basin, stretching from its original project proposal to the west, and much closer to the Smith River. This expansion could turn the west side of the Little Belt Mountains into an industrialized area.
Groundwater pumping from mining activities could potentially lower the water table, and create a “cone of depression” that extends to the Sheep Creek alluvium – posing a threat to adjacent stream flows. The Smith River, and Sheep Creek, already suffer from low flows during most years, putting pressure on downstream water users and preventing the fishery from reaching its potential.
Groundwater that is captured in the underground mine workings will contain arsenic and other toxic substances that pose a serious threat to water quality.
Please take a few minutes, and tell the Montana DEQ that it needs to conduct a rigorous review of the long-term harm that threatens our Smith River!