Black Butte Copper Mine Seeks Permitting In Montana
By Tim Ravndal
Since the 1972 Montana Constitutional Convention, environmentalism became a priority issue in resource management across Montana. Due to a large number of mining cleanup sites across Montana, the state developed the Montana Environmental Protection Act. The permitting process across the nation also became very extensive to comply new mining laws and the 1969 National Environmental Protection Act.
Around 1985 a mining company was in Montana doing some mineral exploration work. In that process, a known deposit of copper about 19 miles North of White Sulphur Springs in Meagher County gained attention. The analysis showed a rich vein of copper not developed and the size of the deposit was recorded as very substantial.
Over the next 30 years the development of the mine was moving forward but was not ready for public review. An approved process to put Black Butte Mine into operation was being assembled. Studies were conducted from different aspects of environmental analysis with intent of a successful operation.
Because of the volatility brought forward by anti-mining organizations, the company entered into an agreement that would hold off on any open pit operations for 25 years.
Interest in operations in mining here in Montana were shown from Canada to Australia with investors from across America. In 2015, Tintina Mining was prepared to move forward with the permitting process required by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).
In December of 2015, Tintina Montana Inc. submitted an application for a Draft mining permit for the Black Butte Copper project. to the director of the hard rock section of DEQ.
The application triggered the environmental analysis required by both State and Federal law. This public process opened the door to environmental organizations from across the country raising concerns about permitting the mine.
A nationally recognized recreational waterway known as the “Smith River” was put at the front of the battle. Claims were instantly made that permitting the mine would pollute the river without any way to stop or repair potential damages.
The federal government began scoping to develop a “Draft Environmental Impact Study”to fully analyze the potential impact by the operation of the mine.
Over the next 2 years many meetings and hearings were held providing the public an opportunity to give input. In March of 2019. the analysis reached completion of the draft analysis and began more public meetings.
This week, the meeting in White Sulphur Springs drew local citizens that were fired up to see the permitting process finally move forward. The analysis team with DEQ has determined that the proposed operation will not have any impact on the Smith River.
A local mining consultant, Steve Hicks, is a local resident and he addressed the officials of DEQ with a reminder that the foundation of issuing the permit is solid. It rests with the sacrifices made in WWII, where the demand for the very resources located in Montana were and still are essential to the future of America.
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