DEQ to host meetings on proposed Smith River mine

Source: Bozeman Daily Chronicle
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Michael Wright

State environmental officials have planned a series of public meetings as they begin to consider the potential environmental impacts of a proposed copper mine near a tributary to the famed Smith River.

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality began work last month on an environmental impact statement for the Black Butte Copper Project, a mine Tintina Resources wants to build near White Sulphur Springs. Conservation groups have opposed the mine because they worry it could harm a tributary to the Smith River, a renowned fly-fishing destination.

DEQ gave the company a draft permit in September and began its environmental analysis. On Monday, the agency announced a series of three scoping meetings for the project at the end of October and beginning of November.

The meetings are part of the first phase of the environmental analysis, when the agency determines what issues should be addressed in the analysis. After this set of meetings, the agency will write a draft of the study and release it for public comment.

Environmental analysis is the final step before a mine can be built. DEQ is legally required to finish the analysis within a year of its start. Kristi Ponozzo, DEQ’s public policy director, said finishing analysis on the hard rock mine within a year “will be challenging.”

Tintina Resources applied for a mine permit in December 2015. DEQ found Tintina’s application deficient twice in 2016 and once more in 2017. The company amended its application to correct the deficiencies, and DEQ deemed the application complete this summer.

The scoping meetings are scheduled as follows:

Great Falls Civic Center, Oct. 30, 6 to 9 p.m.

White Sulphur Springs High School gym, Nov. 1, 6 to 9 p.m.

Park County High School gym, Livingston, Nov. 7, 6 to 9 p.m.