If you care about the Smith River, Montana’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) needs to hear from you.  Until May 10, 2019, the DEQ is accepting comments on the draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for a large copper mine a foreign-owned company is proposing in the headwaters of the Smith River.  The DEIS is meant to evaluate the real risks this mine poses to the surrounding environment, especially water and wildlife, as well as the recreational economy connected to the Smith River.

In its haste to complete this draft EIS, the DEQ claims that this mine will not harm the Smith River.  A closer look at the draft EIS says otherwise.  Here are significant reasons that this is the wrong mine in the wrong place:

  1. This mine seriously risks reducing flows and increasing pollution of the Smith River’s most important trout spawning tributary. The company and the DEIS grossly underestimate how much groundwater connected to the Smith River headwaters will flow into the mine and have to be treated to remove contamination.
  2. The water the company plans to pump back into Smith River tributaries so they don’t dry up due to mining activities is highly likely to contain more acidity, nitrate, and toxins than the DEIS admits. In addition, that replacement water will be warmer than natural stream water. All of those changes in water quality are harmful to aquatic life, fish, and stream habitat.
  3. The company and DEQ haven’t properly considered how to keep contamination from mine waste out of groundwater and surface water that will flow into the Smith River system. They also have failed to evaluate the high likelihood that wastes from this mine will create acid mine drainage laden with arsenic and other mine contaminants.
  4. The company’s plans to keep mine waste and the contaminants it produces from adversely affecting the environment for decades or generations is very experimental. They provide no good evidence that it will work.  The Smith River is their guinea pig.
  5. An EIS is required to take “hard look” at the direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts of the proposed action. However, the DEIS has not properly or sufficiently examined threats to the aquatic life in the Smith River and its tributaries.

Comment before the May 10th deadline via email at: TintinaDraftEIS@mt.govComments can also be sent via postal mail:

Craig Jones
Department of Environmental Quality
P.O. Box 200901
Helena, MT 59601