HELENA — Montana environmental regulators issued a mining permit to Tintina Montana Inc. for preparation work on a planned underground copper mine in central Montana, the Department of Environmental Quality said Friday.
The permit was issued after Tintina posted a $4.6 million bond to cover the reclamation costs for the first phase of construction at the Black Butte Copper Project about 15 miles (24 kilometers) north of White Sulphur Springs.
The permit and bond only covers preparation work, such as creating a temporary waste rock storage pad, waste water storage, roads and areas for construction materials and equipment.
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.
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. They claim it would pollute a tributary of one of the state’s most popular recreational rivers. The mine is about which is about 19 miles (31 kilometers) from the Smith River.
The 110-mile (177-kilometer) Smith River runs through a limestone canyon and a scenic valley before flowing into the Missouri River south of Great Falls. The waterway is so popular the state holds an annual lottery for permits to float down it.
The proposed underground mine is on private land. Plans call for extracting 15.3 million tons (13.8 million metric tons) of copper-laden rock and waste over 15 years — about 440 tons (400 million metric tons) a day.
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