HELENA — The company proposing to mine copper near the headwaters of the Smith River recently purchased 40 mining claims close to its exploration site.
On Monday, Tintina Resources Inc. announced the purchase of the Meagher County claims from Wyoming Gold Mining Company Inc. for a combination of cash and stock totaling $100,000. Federal mining claims have a maximum size of 20 acres, meaning the total acquisition is less than 800 acres. The claims are close to the Black Butte Copper Project, where Tintina proposes construction of a copper mine near Sheep Creek, a major tributary of the Smith River.
Tintina bought the claims to control mining activity in the vicinity of the Black Butte project, and the acquisition does not mean an immediate expansion of the mine site, said Jerry Zieg, vice president of exploration for Tintina.
“We haven’t explored them yet, so we don’t really know what’s on them, but we may do some work on them at some point,” he said. “But that’s not in the current plans.”
Tintina wanted to be sure a competitor did not purchase the leases and mine near the Black Butte site, Zieg said.
A preliminary economic analysis of the mine estimated that it could produce more than 650 million pounds of copper during a projected 14-year life span. With copper prices $3 or more a pound, it could produce nearly $2 billion.
The Montana Department of Environmental Quality released an environmental assessment this week on Tintina’s proposal to drill additional wells to test groundwater quality and quantity. DEQ said in the environmental assessment that it expects no environmental impacts from the test wells. The public can comment on the proposal until July 21.
Controversy has surrounded exploration of the mine, with conservation groups expressing concerns that mining could pollute nearby Sheep Creek and the Smith River. DEQ received about 4,500 public comments on its draft environmental assessment of the project.