by Derf Johnson
Get ready, because we are in for an all-out fight to protect the river that we all love and cherish. The Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is proceeding, as anticipated, with the environmental impact statement that analyzes the Smith River copper mine. DEQ is likely to release the draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) within the next two months. Its release will trigger a comment period (likely to be 60-90 days long) and a set of public hearings. This will be our one chance to tell DEQ and Australia-based Sandfire (the owner of the mine) what a terrible idea the mine truly is, and to (hopefully) kick it into the dust bin of history.
Although we suffered the unfortunate loss of I-186, the truth is that this mine can and must still be stopped, and with enough people power and strategic advocacy it is possible to do so. The surface and groundwater problems associated with the mine, and the serious risk it poses to the river and the incredibly robust recreation economy based around it, should shock all but the most devout resource extraction propagandists.
Sandfire will make every effort to argue that the mine is “state-of-the-art” and will employ “modern” mining techniques that will eliminate most of the risk. But these promises are comparable to having “seat belts on the Hindenburg.” This is the wrong mine, in the wrong ore body, and in the wrong watershed.
Stay informed by checking either www.meic.org or www.saveoursmith.com, or MEIC’s Facebook page, Save Our Smith. Get ready yourself, and ready to rally your friends and neighbors to beat back this disastrous proposal and protect our treasured Smith River.