State of Montana Gives Go Ahead For Copper Mine In Smith River Headwaters

March 13, 2020

American Rivers statement

March 13, 2020
Contact: Scott Bosse, 406-570-0455,

Helena, MT – The Montana Department of Environmental Quality today released its long-awaited final environmental impact statement (EIS) on the Black Butte Copper Mine in the headwaters of the Smith River. The EIS concluded that the mine could be built without significantly harming local waterways and aquatic life, a conclusion that is sharply contested by conservation groups and scientists who have examined the project.

Scott Bosse, American Rivers’ Northern Rockies Director based in Bozeman, made the following statement:

“American Rivers joins thousands of Montanans in expressing our deep disappointment with this decision, which ignores the findings of top experts who concluded that the Black Butte Copper Mine poses a serious threat to Sheep Creek and the Smith River. Mining has its place in Montana, but not in the headwaters of one of our most beloved rivers. We intend to challenge this decision.”

American Rivers listed the Smith River in our America’s Most Endangered Rivers® reports in 2015, 2016 and 2018 due to the threats posed by the Black Butte Copper Mine. Those threats include dewatering vital trout spawning tributaries and polluting Sheep Creek and the Smith River with toxic heavy metals and acid mine drainage, which lasts in perpetuity. The Black Butte Copper Mine is being proposed by Sandfire Resources America, which is controlled by Perth, Australia based Sandfire Resources.