Montana Regulators Approve New Copper Mine

Montana regulators have approved a new copper mine, known as the Black Butte Copper Project, in Central Montana. The mine is owned by Sandfire Resources America Inc., and the company expects this environmentally-responsible mine to deliver a big economic boost into the local community.

According to the company’s website, the company expects to employ 240 full-time employees and an additional 50 full-time contractors with annual average wages estimated to be $65,000 per year. If these projections hold true, the company would be the largest employer within a 50 mile radius of the mine.

Urban liberals often roll their eyes at the economic benefits of mining, but with a more robust economic outlook comes a more robust community. Sandfire estimates that the mine will bring in an additional 31 children to Meagher County, Montana during the operational phase of the mine.

This too, probably sounds like small potatoes for liberal environmentalists in the Twin Cities, but this is a huge deal in Central Montana, where most high schools field six-man football teams because there aren’t enough students in these districts to field an 11-man team.

According to Public School Review, Meagher County, Montana will have 214 students enrolled in 2020, meaning the 31 additional children in the school district as a result of the Black Butte Mine would represent a nearly 15 percent increase in enrollment.

Furthermore, the countywide taxable value could quadruple, and is projected to increase upwards of $20 million dollars. Currently, countywide taxable value is $7,888,020 (TY 2012-2013).

These new opportunities for local economies and communities need not come at the expense of the environment. In fact, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has praised the project:

“In a press release released by the MT DEQ, Director Shaun McGrath said: “DEQ staff thoroughly analysed this project and applied the best available science. Our job is to ensure a proposed project will meet or exceed the environmental regulations set forth in law. This work has resulted in the most protective hard rock mining permit this agency has ever signed.”

DEQ also stated:

“The mine will also actively monitor water quality at several locations to ensure standards are being met,” DEQ’s news release states, “and will adjust water temperature in real time so there is no harm to trout and other aquatic life caused by temperature changes. Tintina will not be allowed to discharge any water at all during the months of July through September, when nitrogen in the water may stimulate algae growth.”

Given the years spent evaluating the PolyMet mine in Minnesota, many of our readers are probably wondering how long this mine took to gain approval. According to the Great Falls Tribune:

“The Black Butte Copper Project was first proposed by Tintina Montana, Inc. in 2015. Tintina is a wholly owned subsidiary of Sandfire Resources America Inc. Sandfire Resources is Australian owned. Its North American headquarters are in Vancouver, Canada.”

Environmentally-responsible mining provides economic opportunities and helps build communities. It provides jobs, tax revenues, and increases the number of people in areas where populations had been shrinking. If Montana and Michigan can approve copper and copper-nickel mining projects, why can’t Minnesota?