by Derf Johnson
Below are two updates on the proposed Smith River copper mine. This mine is proposed by an Australian mining company that wants to mine adjacent to and directly underneath Sheep Creek, the most important tributary of the Smith River. The Smith River is Montana’s only recreational river requiring floating permits. It is an incredible resource for the state of Montana, and an ecological wonder. It’s certainly not the place for a large hardrock mine.
Senator Tester Comes Out Swinging
Elected officials are often apprehensive about taking firm positions on issues, especially those considered to be controversial. This is an unfortunate part of our political process, and truly devalues our democratic ideals. So, when a politician takes a hard stance on an issue that matters to many Montanans, he or she should be thanked and praised.
Recently U.S. Senator Jon Tester of Montana had this to say about the proposed Smith River mine:
“Montana history is littered with communities who heard, “this time it will be different,” only to be left polluted and economically devastated. We just can’t afford to take that risk here, and we don’t need to.
The Smith already creates jobs and stimulates the economy all by itself. Folks come from all over the world and pay good money to float it. They even enter into a lottery just for the chance to catch a trout in its pristine waters.
We need to come together to make sure the Smith stays the Smith, and Montana stays the Last Best Place.”
The Latest on the Application Review Process
In December 2015, Tintina submitted application materials for a full-scale operating permit to the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). DEQ then had 90 days to conduct what is called a “completeness review” to assess the completeness of the permit application and identify any errors or missing information. In March 2016, DEQ issued a 60 -page “deficiency notice,” outlining the major flaws in the application. Because Montana’s law has been written to heavily favor the mining industry, Tintina now has an unlimited amount of time to respond to the deficiencies DEQ identified. As this blog was posted, Tintina still had not submitted the additional information.
Once DEQ does receive the revised application from Tintina, it will only have 30 days in which to review the new materials. Keep in mind that DEQ will probably receive hundreds of pages of technical documents that will determine critical aspects of the mine plan, including water management, storage of tailings, and impacts to fisheries and wildlife. MEIC is monitoring the application process very closely and has engaged experts to review separate sections of the application. To stay up-to-date on the application process, sign up for MEIC’s Action Alert Network.