Copper exploration project approved near White Sulphur Springs – KXLH TV, Jan. 16, 2014

January 16, 2014

Categories: Hardrock Mining

By John Sherer and Sanjay Talwani

BOZEMAN – The Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) approved a permit for mineral exploration at a site north of White Sulphur Springs by Tintina Alaska Exploration Inc.

Tintina, based in Vancouver, British Columbia, calls the mining effort the Black Butte Copper Project; it’s located on 12,000 acres of private land about 15 miles north of White Sulphur Springs.

The DEQ says it received about 4,000 comments from the public during and after a public meeting held in July 2013.

“We took great care to respond to the public’s input on this proposal,” said DEQ director Tracy Stone-Manning. “A lot of what we heard during the public comment process led to further protections for the land and water near the proposed exploration site.”

Jerry Zieg, vice-president of exploration for Tintina – and a White Sulphur Springs native – said in a press release, “We are committed to doing this project right from beginning to end. The review process was thorough and comprehensive in nature. The Montana Department of Environmental

Quality looked at all aspects and potential impacts of the decline and addressed each appropriately. Our work in obtaining this permit shows that we can successfully access this valuable natural resource while simultaneously protecting the environment.”

The permit is only for exploration and does not allow development of a mine.

Tintina will be allowed to build a tunnel and drilling program to map out the boundaries and extent of copper, silver, and cobalt deposits; the company says the tunnel is expected to be about 4,921 feet.

Tintina will be permitted to take up to 10,000 tons of ore for metallurgical testing, and will also be allowed to drill and excavate for future mine operations and to construct systems that would help minimize impacts on local water sources.

The final Environmental Assessment issued Tuesday allows the company to obtain a bulk sample of the underground mineral deposit of of to 10,000 tons for metallurgical testing.

The EA also requires several actions to protect against environmental contamination. Among them: Tintina will be required to have a temporary water treatment facility on-site once the exploration advanced beyond 1,500 feet into the “decline” – the ore-bearing formation it is exploring. Waste rock will need to be contained in ponds with capacity to withstand a 100-year flood event, with two feet of “freeboard” above that potential water level. The company will be required to have an archaeologist on-site during construction of a road in the vicinity of a prehistoric site found in 2011.

Some environmental groups expressed concerns about possible contamination to tributaries of the Smith River, one of the state’s best-known multi-rafting destinations.

Tintina says the copper-cobalt-silver deposits at Black Butte Copper are found in shale and sulphide zones which also contain barite over a stratus of at least 2,640 feet which reach 328 feet thick and extend for great lateral distances.

Tintina estimates that a mine on the site would operate for 11 years generating $208 million in taxes during that time.

If the company eventually applies for permission to build an underground mine, the DEQ will prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) which would be used to determine if a permit will be granted.

Click here to read the DEQ’s environmental assessment (PDF).

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