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Montana Issues Permit For Black Butte Copper Mine Project

Montana Department of Environmental Quality

The State of Montana this week greenlit the first phase of construction of an underground copper mine in the central part of the state.

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality on Aug. 14 issued Tintina Montana, Inc. a permit to begin surface preparation for the proposed 311 acre Black Butte Copper Mine north of White Sulphur Springs.

DEQ spokesperson Rebecca Harbage says the permit allows the company to get started in the area.

"It doesn’t involve drilling into the ground. It’s preparation of the surface area itself," Harbage said.

DEQ issued the permit after Tintina posted a $4.6 million bond to cover the reclamation costs for the first phase.

Tintina, a subsidiary of Australian mining company Sandfire Resources, would need to post an additional bond before it receives a permit to actually start mining, the DEQ said.

The proposed underground mine is on private land. Plans call for extracting 15.3 million tons of copper laden rock and waste over 15 years, or about 440 tons a day.

Montana Trout Unlimited, which advocates for clean water, and other groups filed a lawsuit in June alleging state officials did not thoroughly study the mine's potential to harm the environment. The groups claim it would pollute a tributary of the Smith River, one of the state’s most popular recreational rivers.

Kayla writes about energy policy, the oil and gas industry and new electricity developments.