If you’ve ever had the pleasure of floating the Smith River, then you know that it is a truly amazing place. Winding its way through rangelands and its iconic canyon, this river gives recreationists an experience that they will never forget, not to mention some amazing fishing. ringing $10 million to the local economy each year, the Smith is a serious economic driver, employing guides, outfitters, and supporting other small businesses. For all of these reasons, it’s easy to see why the Smith is held as one of Montana’s greatest treasures.
Over the past few years the area has been eyed by those seeking a different kind of treasure; copper. Foreign mining company Tintina Resources has submitted their draft mining permit for the Black Butte Copper Project. This proposed mine would be located in the headwaters of Sheep Creek, a major tributary of the Smith.
Last Monday evening, MWF joined other conservation groups at a public scoping meeting in Great Falls put on by the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). This was the first of four meetings held by the agency as part of the process in developing the environmental impact statement (EIS) for the project. Over thirty individuals spoke at the meeting, the majority of whom were opposed to the potential negative impacts of the proposed mine.
MWF’s Western Field Representative Alec Underwood outlined the potential impacts to Sheep Creek and the considerations the DEQ should make going forward in the EIS process. “The DEQ should be especially stringent toward any risks to water quantity or quality in the
Sheep Creek drainage”, Underwood said, noting the importance of the creek as a fish spawning tributary and for providing a large percentage of the flow to the Smith River during low water flows. “Dewatering or contamination from mining processes in Sheep creek would likely have detrimental effects on not only fish, but recreational users who float the river during low water.”
In addition to the potential direct impacts of the mine, Underwood and others spoke about the potential for expansion of other mining operations in the area, citing the over 500 additional mining claims in close proximity to the proposed mine.
Now is the time to take action and attend the remaining public scoping meeting in Livingston. For the sake of the Smith River and to all those who will enjoy it in the future, speak up now and let the DEQ know that the Black Butte Copper Project is simply not worth the risk.
For information on the remaining meetings or how to comment on the proposed project, please visit