Montana DEQ adds additional public meeting in Helena

Smith River supporters will have another opportunity to voice their concerns about Tintina Resource’s proposed copper mine on Sheep Creek.  Montana DEQ has announced a fourth public meeting to be held in Helena.  For more information about the scoping process or talking points for comments please visit or refer to our October 16, 2017 post.

Public Scoping Meetings and Locations

  • Monday, October 30, 2017 – Great Falls Civic Center, 2 Park Drive South, Great Falls, MT
  • Wednesday, November 1, 2017 – White Sulphur Springs High School Gymnasium, 405 South Central Avenue, White Sulphur Springs, MT
  • Monday, November 6, 2017 – Radisson Colonial Hotel, 2301 Colonial Drive, Helena, MT 
  • Tuesday, November 7, 2017 – Park County High School Gymnasium, 102 View Vista Drive, Livingston, MT

All meetings are scheduled from 6-9 p.m.  Stay tuned for information on ride share and bus transport option.

Written comments may also be submitted electronically to [email protected] or by mail to:

Craig Jones
Department of Environmental Quality
P.O. Box 200901
Helena, MT 5962-0901


Smith River Mine Public Hearings

Scoping TimelineMontana’s Smith River is renowned worldwide for its clean water, rugged canyon scenery, and incredible trout fishery. The Smith is Montana’s only permitted recreational river. A small Canadian mining startup, Tintina Resources, has partnered with Australian mining firm Sandfire, and has submitted an application to the State of Montana to build a massive copper mine at the headwaters of the Smith River, directly adjacent to and underneath Sheep Creek.
The Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has begun composing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), and has set a deadline of November 16th to submit comments regarding scoping (the initial process of determining what issues should be studied in the EIS).  The scoping process gives the public, you, a chance to tell DEQ what you want included in their analysis-and why it should be included.  DEQ has set the date for three initial public hearings (dates and locations listed below). Please consider attending the public hearings.  After the hearings, you will also be able to submit written comments on this critical phase of the EIS.

Public Hearing Dates

Great Falls: Monday, October 30th from 6-9 PM, Great Falls Civic Center, 2 Park Drive South

White Sulphur Springs: Wednesday, November 1stfrom 6-9 PM, White Sulphur Springs High School Gymnasium, 405 South Central Avenue

Livingston: Tuesday, November 7th from 6-9 PM, Park County High School Gymnasium, 102 View Vista Drive
Information on bus and ride share travel coming soon!

Suggested Public Comment Talking Points

The Wild Fishery of the Smith River Basin: DEQ should evaluate the baseline conditions of the Sheep Creek and Smith River wild and native trout fishery. The Tintina project has the potential to dewater and contaminate both surface water and groundwater connected to the Sheep Creek tributary, and then to the main Smith River.  There is clear evidence that wild trout, and potentially some native fish species, use Sheep Creek extensively for spawning and as a cold water refuge during low, warm water conditions in the Smith.  There is also clear evidence that during their life-cycle, trout migrate between Sheep Creek, the Smith River, and the Missouri River. In addition, during periods of low water, Sheep Creek is the largest source of clean, cold water to the mainstem river, which is vital for the health of the entire Smith River fishery all the way to its confluence with the Missouri River. Considering that impacts to water quality and quantity in Sheep Creek are a concern for the fishery all the way into the Missouri, there must be a thorough baseline study of this extensive, at-risk fishery. DEQ should include and rely upon Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, Region 4 fishery biologists and managers in the EIS analysis.

 Jobs and Economic Growth in Outdoor Recreation:  In evaluating the possible negative impacts to water quality and quantity associated with Tintina’s mining proposal, DEQ should seriously consider the hit this would cause to a significant portion of Montana’s robust and growing tourist and outdoor recreation economy.  Tourists spend at least $350 million annually in Montana on fishing, which is at the heart of the state’s $7 billion per year outdoor recreation economy.  That economy generates over 71,000 Montana jobs.  Around 7,000 people float the 60-mile permitted stretch of the Smith River annually, with the hope of connecting to a part of Montana that is still wild. The fact that the Smith is the only permitted river out of Montana’s many amazing rivers makes clear how valuable it is for our recreation and tourist economy.  Economists have determined that fishing on the Smith River alone contributes up to $10 million annually for Montana’s economy, and that doesn’t include other recreational, agricultural and tax benefits it generates. These are indefinitely sustainable dollars, and they benefit real people and real jobs  that would be lost if the river is degraded. Outfitters who have worked for over twenty years on the Smith River have collectively employed hundreds of guides and other staff.  Add to these careers the cost taxpayers might have to foot to clean up a big spill, or to keep toxins from leaking in the future, and it becomes a high price to pay. Unfortunately, the citizens of Montana will assume all the risk, while the corporate boardrooms of Tintina’s owners in Perth, Australia and New York City reap the rewards.
 Water Quantity in Sheep Creek and the Smith: The Smith River and Sheep Creek already suffer from low flows during most years, putting pressure on downstream water users and preventing the fishery from reaching its potential. Tintina plans to pump large volumes of groundwater in order to keep the underground tunnels dry during mining. This could alter flows in Sheep Creek and other streams that rely on that groundwater for a portion of their flows. DEQ should evaluate the potential impacts to Sheep Creek and the Smith River from reduced flows as a result of mine activities.
 Water Quality in Sheep Creek and the Smith: DEQ should evaluate the potential long-term impacts to water quality in the Smith River watershed from acid mine drainage because the Tintina Project is a sulfide deposit.  When sulfide minerals are dug up and exposed to air and water, they can react to form acid mine drainage, which is toxic to fish and other aquatic life.  Once acid mine drainage develops on a large scale, it is impossible to stop, and it can continue for hundreds of years – requiring expensive long-term treatment.  DEQ’s analysis of acid mine drainage potential for this mine proposal should include evaluation of mine tailings, which will require isolation from air or water to safeguard against leaching toxins.  Other mines in Montana that have developed acid mine drainage have caused lasting damage and cost taxpayers tens of millions in treatment costs. DEQ should also evaluate the potential water quality impacts of other harmful metals, such as arsenic.
Potential Massive Expansion of the Mine: While Tintina has portrayed their project to Montanans as a relatively small and underground mine, they have simultaneously been acquiring the mineral rights to a very large tract of land directly adjacent to the proposed mine. These mineral rights are located both on private and public land, and stretch from the proposed mine site to within a couple of miles from the Smith River, and cross over several other tributaries to the Smith and Sheep Creek. Tintina is on record claiming that the “upside” of the project, or the long-term opportunities, is a 50-year mining district, that would ultimately turn the western side of the Little Belt mountains into an industrialized zone. The company currently maintains over 500 mining claims on public land totaling more than 10,000 acres surrounding its Black Butte site.  DEQ must, as part of the EIS process, consider the secondary and cumulative impacts associated with the expansion of the mine.

Giving a Voice to Rivers

Joe Newman spent two months this summer at Camp Baker, the public put in to the Smith River, educating people about the proposed copper mine that threatens the health of the Smith River watershed. Read about his experience Giving a Voice to Rivers.

Tell us your clean water story

On June 30 we urged folks to send us their Clean Water Stories.  Below is one of those great submissions!  We urge you to keep those stories coming in.  We’ll send you some sweet MTU gear in exchange.  Submit your stories and photos to [email protected] we’d also love to see your photos on Instagram #30daysforcleanwater.  For more information on our plea for stories read our executive director, David Brooks, post on the the importance of headwater streams.

The Pursuit of Happiness By Joshua Bergan

Headwaters are important. To me, to generations before and after me, and to the fish and wildlife that live on the vital sustenance that headwaters provide.

Recently, my wife and I have spent most of our summer free-time hiking up to and fishing Montana’s mountain lakes, many of which are the headwaters for streams that feed the large rivers. These lakes have become a part of us. I thought that once our project was complete, we’d be happy to get back to floating and fishing big rivers, but that’s not the case. We cannot wait to spend more time at these headwaters.

These pristine mountain lakes are spectacular. They often sport clear teal water that you can see 20-feet into and host native cutthroat trout and arctic grayling – the same species that Silas Goodrich caught on the Corps of Discovery, and that sustained people for hundreds of years before that. These fish have only a small fraction of their original places left, where anglers like my wife and I can find them. Clean , healthy headwaters are important to us.

Aside from the well-documented significance these sanctuaries provide for native plants and animals, they provide people like us with a refuge, a reason to get exercise and get healthy, some peace, memories, photo-ops and ultimately, the pursuit of happiness.

It’s true that there is some economic opportunity up there. We need the minerals and metals that are buried near these important waterways and we all need to make a living. We need to balance these things with peoples’ right to recreation, low-impact economic opportunity, and the plants and animals that rely on these places that have the same right to exist as humans do. It is my strongly held belief that we do not need those minerals, metals, and monies enough that it’s worth destroying these headwaters.

Headwaters are too important to us all to allow protections to lapse.

30 Days for Clean Water – We need your help!

You have 30 days to tell the EPA to protect Clean Water

The public can now comment on a decision by the Trump administration to repeal a rule that would protect 60 percent of stream miles in American.  In June, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that it would begin the process of repealing the 2015 Clean Water Rule that protects headwater streams and water sources, however, the opening of the 30-day comment period was delayed until today.  As anglers, conservationists, irrigators, recreationalists, and, well, water drinkers, we need to defend the Clean Water Rule against repeal because it:

  • Protects from pollution the cold, clean headwaters the account for roughly 50 percent of Montana’s trout streams.
  • Includes exemptions to ensure that farmers and ranchers are not penalized for the water use that keeps them in business.
  • Safeguards the drinking water sources of one in three Americans.
  • Underpins the $7.1 billion outdoor recreation economy in Montana that generates 71,000 jobs and $286 million in state and local taxes.  Ten million people visit Montana every year, in large degree, because of the state’s unparalleled natural amenities, especially cold, clean trout streams. 

Without the Clean Water Rule everyone who cares and consumes clean water loses, except the industries that its repeal will allow to pollute our headwaters without regulation or penalty.  We’ve had enough of that in Montana!

Act now by providing a written, online comment to the EPA before August 28th. Submit comments to  

Or for more information, check out the EPA’s page on this issue,

Please consider copying the comments you send to the EPA to all of your Congressional delegates.  Let them know that you expect them to defend clean water rule-making in Congress.

Senator Steve Daines: (202) 224-2651 (Washington, DC office); or email

Senator Jon Tester: (202) 224-2644 (Washington, DC office); or email

Representative Greg Gianforte: (202) 225-3211 (Washington, DC office); or email