Save Our Smith – No Black Butte Mine

Montana’s spectacular Smith River is threatened by mining.

Tintina Resources, a Canadian exploration mining company, is proposing a massive copper mine on Sheep Creek, 15 miles north of White Sulphur Springs at the headwaters of the Smith River. Montana has a long, sad history with hard-rock mining projects that have left a legacy of acid-mine pollution that continue to pollute our rivers and streams. The proposed Black Butte Mine would be constructed in a region where rock contains sulfides; when exposed to air and water sulfide-bearing rock almost always produces acid mine drainage. Further, construction of the mining decline will likely affect groundwater supplies and, in turn, potentially threaten instream flows vital to fish health on Sheep Creek.

Given Montana’s knowledge of the impacts and risks of hard-rock mining, and the Smith River’s special value, the Black Butte Mine is simply a bad idea that should be stopped. Upper Missouri Waterkeeper is committed to protecting the Smith, its fisheries, and an economy dependent on clean water from a polluting copper mine.

STATUS UPDATE, May 2014: Tintina Resources has withdrawn its application to amend the operating permit! Why? Well, we believe its because of citizen advocates like Upper Missouri Waterkeeper and other organizations who used the law to protect one of our favorite river. In the face of strong opposition, and what we believe was a fatally-flawed authorization from the Montana DEQ, Tintina chose to retreat rather than push forward.

Although there are currently no applications to copper mine in the Smith River watershed, it is likely that Tintina will try again. We will keep you updated on any change in status and in terms of how you can help protect the Smith!


STATUS:  The Montana Department of Environmental Quality  issued Tintina Resources an exploration license (click here) in January 2014, that will potentially permit Tintina to develop an “exploration decline” to mine tons of ore that will be trucked to an undisclosed location for testing.

Read about DEQ’s January 2014 Permit here.


CLICK HERE TO SIGN THE PETITION! – Tell the State of Montana to Save Our Smith – No Black Butte Mine!

DONATE TO THE SMITH RIVER DEFENSE FUND – Every dollar you contribute helps us Save Our Smith. Please donate!



How big is the exploration decline?

A hole 18 ft. by 18 ft. 5,200 ft. deep. Approximately 1,684,800 cu. ft. or 62,400 cu. yds. of uncrushed rock, or 48,000 tons of rock (1 yard crushed rock = 1.3 tons) needs to be removed from the decline. That’s approximately 137,143 round bales of hay, conservatively. Or equivalent to 4 Empire State buildings deep.

How much do they ultimately want to mine?

Potentially over 1 billion pounds of ore-bearing rock. That’s 500,000 tons or 1,428,571 round bale. Placed end to end, that’s 1,082 miles, or approximately the driving distance from Bozeman to Las Angeles, not including waste rock

The project area includes 12,000 acres of public and private land = 18.75 sq. mi.

For reference, the City of Helena = 16.39 sq. mi.

Between 20-30% of the ore removed could generate acid mine drainage

Volcanic-associated massive sulfide deposits, like those in the Smith’s headwaters, are among the most likely of all deposit types to have associated environmental problems, particularly acid mine drainage (AMD).

Acid mine drainage requires perpetual water treatment which typically costs millions of dollars per year. $1-3 million/year in water pollution mitigation is the industry average placed onto the back’s of taxpayers after the mining company leaves

The initial, exploratory decline authorizes removal of 10,000 tons for bulk sampling and metallurgical testing

$2 billion is the estimated value of 658 million tons of copper

The ultimate mine only has an expected 14 year mine life

Approximately 150-200 jobs for the project’s life

THE COMPANY – Tintina Resources

A Canadian “penny stock” mining company.

Black Butte is its flagship property.

Tintina’s core management team comes from the world’s largest zinc mine and nation’s largest polluter: the Red Dog Mine!


According to a recent report by the U.S. National Park Service, the most serious heavy-metal contamination is found along the Red Dog haul road near the Iñupiaq village of Kivalina in northwest Alaska.

The Red Dog mine generates so much acidic water that it costs $10 million per year to treat it before discharging it into the River.

Red Dog did not start generating acid until over a decade after the mine opened. This means the proposed Black Butte Mine on the Smith could not even show long-term pollution impacts until well-after the permitting process!

Tintina is also associated with NovaGold and NovaCopper. In fact, the Executive Chairman of Tintina’s Board has ties to these companies who are big polluters…

See “NovaGold Settles EPA Suit Over Alaska Mine Pollution”

There, NovaGold paid the federal government to resolve claims that stormwater discharges polluted streams close to the mine near Nome

See also this report on acid mine drainage impacts in Alaska:



11,155 angler days per year.

Annual revenue generated for the state economy from fishing trips is estimated at $1,202,868.

Water from Smith watershed provides irrigation for 36,000 acres of farmland.

Spectacular landscape, great fishing opportunities, valuable tributary to Missouri River.

The Smith’s recreational opportunities – based on clean water and healthy watersheds – are a significant part of the approximate $200 million nonresident’s contribute annually to Central Montana’s economy.

Non-resident tourism in central Montana supported 9,500 jobs in 2012.

Click on the graph below to see how important nonresident economic contributions, like visits to the Smith, are to Central Montana.



CLICK HERE TO SIGN THE PETITION! – Tell the State of Montana to Save Our Smith – No Black Butte Mine!

DONATE TO THE SMITH RIVER DEFENSE FUND – Every dollar you contribute helps us Save Our Smith. Please donate!