Smith River Mine Updates & Public Hearings

This summer 2017, the Montana DEQ determined that the proposed Black Butte Copper Project, AKA the proposed Smith Mine outside White Sulphur Springs, has submitted a “technically complete” application and therefore it was starting the environmental review process.

The Smith River

Determining that Tintina Resource’s application is “technically complete” is not the same as approving the mine. Rather, it is a procedural step akin to crossing the “Ts” and dotting the “I’s” on your drivers license application. You still have to pass the driver’s exam, and so too does Tintina still have to go through several more steps before it is allowed to mine copper in the Smith’s headwaters.

DEQ will now begin the environmental review process, called an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), starting with holding a number of public hearings. These hearings are scoping meetings, intended to solicit you – the public’s – input on the diverse type of environmental and social impacts that authorizing a copper mine in the Smith’s headwaters can create. These scoping meetings will be the first of several opportunities for public comment on the proposed Black Butte Project.

Public scoping meetings will be held at the following places and times:

  • Great Falls Civic Center, 2 Park Drive South, Great Falls, Monday, October 30, 6:00 to 9:00 p.m.
  • White Sulphur Springs High School Gymnasium, 405 South Central Avenue, White Sulphur Springs, Wednesday, November 1, 6:00 to 9:00 p.m.
  • Radisson Colonial Hotel, 2301 Colonial Drive, Helena, Montana, on Monday, November 6th from 6:00 to 9:00 pm
  • Park County High School Gymnasium, 102 View Vista Drive, Livingston, Tuesday, November 7, 6:00 to 9:00 p.m.

DEQ has set a deadline of November 16th to submit written comments to or by postal mail to Craig Jones, Montana Department of Environmental Quality, P.O. Box 200901, Helena, MT 59620-0901.


If you care about the future of the Smith and clean water, it is vital you attend one of these meetings and make your voice heard! Our state needs to hear from folks from every walk of life and all perspectives on what copper mining in the headwaters of the Smith means to them.


Why Does A Copper Mine Matter to the Smith?

The Smith River is renowned for its blue ribbon trout fishery and spectacular scenery. The Sheep Creek drainage – where the proposed mine would be built – is responsible for 55% of tributary spawning. Due to enormous public demand and use, the Smith River is the only river in the state managed by Fish Wildlife and Parks through a permit system. The annual revenue generated for the state economy from fishing and recreation on the Smith in 2011 was $1.7 million.

The proposed mine is a serious 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.

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 tunnel will contain arsenic and other toxic substances that pose a serious threat to water quality.

Want more info on what a copper mine means for the Smith? Click HERE, HERE, or HERE to learn more.


Want to do more? Consider making a generous gift to continue the fight for fishable, swimmable, drinkable water.

We must stop our state decisionmakers from sitting on their hands, repeating the mistakes of the past, and creating more pollution and expensive river clean-ups for Montanans. Please donate today and help us fight for clean water and healthy life for all.