FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Mining Industry Never Sleeps: Targeting Montana’s Smith River

by

Photo by Ginny Holt - Sheep Creek and Addled Writer.

John Holt fishing Sheep Creek. Photo: Ginny Holt.

I wrote the following paragraph last July 14th 2015 in a story about a Canadian mining company‘s proposal to mine gold in the upper Yellowstone near Emigrant Peak in the Paradise Valley. It held true then. More so now.

“One of the things I’ve learned over the decades of writing about the environment is that mining interests are determined, relentless, thorough and extremely forceful. These people won’t go away. It’s never too early to mount a concerted resistance to their planned malignancies. They make timber company executives look like a slap-happy, costumed group of greeters at Disney World.”

Enormous public pressure caused Canadian-based Lucky Minerals Inc. to back away from its planned mayhem in the Absaroka Mountains.

The latest venal insult to the natural world comes from yet another Canadian firm (they’ve done a fine job trashing their own country so now they look to other parts of the world) of brief lineage calling itself Tintina Resources, Inc. It submitted its application for the Black Butte Copper Project located on private land about one mile from the Smith River tributary of Sheep Creek last Wednesday to the Montana Dept. of Environmental Quality. DEQ officials will study potential environmental effects prior to rendering a decision on whether or not to approve the application for the mine that would be about 20 miles from White Sulphur Springs.

Save Our Smith (SOS), an organization formed to stop this obscenity, describes the Smith this way, “Montana’s Smith River is renowned worldwide for its clean water, rugged canyon scenery, and blue ribbon trout fishery. The Smith is Montana’s only permitted recreational river. The permitted section of the Smith River winds 59 miles through a remote canyon in the Big Belt Mountains. Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks classifies the Smith River’s fishery as high-value, owing to its bountiful population of rainbow, brown, westslope cutthroat, and brook trout. The canyon walls of the Smith also boast some of the best examples of Native American pictographs in Montana.”

Tintina, headquartered in Vancouver, B.C. and partnered with Australian-based Sandfire Resources on this project, claims the site holds one of the highest-grade copper deposits on the planet with more than 11 million tons of the ore beneath the surface.

The Smith is Montana’s only permitted river due to public demand to experience its fishing and recreational opportunities. Use of the river generates more than $10 million in annual revenue from these activities. A portion of the river is managed as a State Park, featuring a 59-mile stretch of river with only one put-in and one take-out point. The Smith River and its tributaries provide crucial habitat and spawning grounds for regional trout fisheries. The Sheep Creek drainage accounts for over half of tributary spawning of rainbow trout in the Smith River drainage, and rainbow trout have been known to travel nearly 200 miles round-trip from the Missouri River to spawn.

Floating the Smith is a calming, regenerating and at times humbling experience. Floating beneath towering sandstone cliffs, camping on forested banks or catching large brown trout as abundant and varied wildlife looks on with mild curiosity is a natural process for stepping out of linear time.

According to SOS the proposed mine is particularly a concern because the copper extraction will involve digging into sulfide minerals, which when exposed to air and water, can react to form sulfuric acid in a process known as acid mine drainage. Acid mine drainage is highly toxic to fish and other aquatic life. Groundwater pumping from mining activities could potentially lower the water table, and create a “cone of depression” that extends to the Sheep Creek alluvium – posing a threat to adjacent stream flows. The Smith River and Sheep Creek suffer from low flows during most years, putting pressure on downstream water users and preventing the fishery from reaching its potential. Captured groundwater will contain arsenic and other toxic substances that pose a serious threat to water quality.

This October my wife Ginny and I spent several days enjoying the Sheep Creek drainage – she photographed the land while I fished. The aspens were blazing yellow-gold. The creeks were icy clear and full of riotously colored westslope cutthroat and brook trout. Deer and elk wandered the forest while red-tailed hawks, eagles and wandering vultures cruised the thermals. At night he sky was sliced the glowing white band that is the the Milky Way only slightly diminished by a rising full moon after midnight. Nighthawks boomed above us. This is a truly glorious, peaceful place. Tintina’s proposed disaster would be located just a few miles from where we camped.

It is important that all of us who care for such wonders as Sheep Creek and the Smith River landscape do everything we can to stop these greedy bastards dead in their tracks and send them scurrying back home. A good place to start is by checking out the Save Our Smith website at http://www.saveoursmith.com/ .

More articles by:
February 22, 2018
Mark Schuller
Haiti’s Latest Indignity at the Hands of Dogooders, Oxfam’s Sex Scandal
Jeffrey Sommers
Bond Villain in the World Economy: Latvia’s Offshore Banking Sector
Mark Schuller
Haiti’s Latest Indignity at the Hands of Dogooders, Oxfam’s Sex Scandal
T.J. Coles
How the US Bullies North Korea, 1945-Present
Ipek S. Burnett
Rethinking Freedom in the Era of Mass Shootings
Manuel E. Yepe
Fire and Fury: More Than a Publishing Hit
Patrick Bobilin
Caught in a Trap: Being a Latino Democrat is Being in an Abusive Relationship
Laurel Krause
From Kent State to Parkland High: Will America Ever Learn?
Terry Simons
Congress and the AR-15: One NRA Stooge Too Many
George Wuerthner
Border Wall Delusions
Manuel García, Jr.
The Anthropocene’s Birthday, or the Birth-Year of Human-Accelerated Climate Change
Thomas Knapp
Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Russiagate
February 21, 2018
Cecil Bothwell
Billy Graham and the Gospel of Fear
Ajamu Baraka
Venezuela: Revenge of the Mad-Dog Empire
Edward Hunt
Treating North Korea Rough
Binoy Kampmark
Meddling for Empire: the CIA Comes Clean
Ron Jacobs
Stamping Out Hunger
Ammar Kourany – Martha Myers
So, You Think You Are My Partner? International NGOs and National NGOs, Costs of Asymmetrical Relationships
Michael Welton
1980s: From Star Wars to the End of the Cold War
Judith Deutsch
Finkelstein on Gaza: Who or What Has a Right to Exist? 
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
War Preparations on Venezuela as Election Nears
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Military Realities
Steve Early
Refinery Safety Campaign Frays Blue-Green Alliance
Ali Mohsin
Muslims Face Increasing Discrimination, State Surveillance Under Trump
Julian Vigo
UK Mass Digital Surveillance Regime Ruled Illegal
Peter Crowley
Revisiting ‘Make America Great Again’
Andrew Stewart
Black Panther: Afrofuturism Gets a Superb Film, Marvel Grows Up and I Don’t Know How to Review It
CounterPunch News Service
A Call to Celebrate 2018 as the Year of William Edward Burghardt Du Bois by the Saturday Free School
February 20, 2018
Nick Pemberton
The Gun Violence the Media Shows Us and the State Violence They Don’t
John Eskow
Sympathy for the Drivel: On the Vocabulary of President Nitwit
John Steppling
Trump, Putin, and Nikolas Cruz Walk Into a Bar…
John W. Whitehead
America’s Cult of Violence Turns Deadly
Ishmael Reed
Charles F. Harris: He Popularized Black History
Will Podmore
Paying the Price: the TUC and Brexit
George Burchett
Plumpes Denken: Crude thinking
Binoy Kampmark
The Caring Profession: Peacekeeping, Blue Helmets and Sexual Abuse
Lawrence Wittner
The Trump Administration’s War on Workers
David Swanson
The Question of Sanctions: South Africa and Palestine
Walter Clemens
Murderers in High Places
Dean Baker
How Does the Washington Post Know that Trump’s Plan Really “Aims” to Pump $1.5 Trillion Into Infrastructure Projects?
February 19, 2018
Rob Urie
Mueller, Russia and Oil Politics
Richard Moser
Mueller the Politician
Robert Hunziker
There Is No Time Left
Nino Pagliccia
Venezuela Decides to Hold Presidential Elections, the Opposition Chooses to Boycott Democracy
Daniel Warner
Parkland Florida: Revisiting Michael Fields
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail