Save Our Smith
From a disastrous mine
Australian mining corporation Sandfire, wants to build a massive copper mine at the headwaters of the Smith River, on the banks of Sheep Creek. The Smith is renowned for its clean water, rugged canyon scenery, and blue ribbon trout fishery. The risks posed by the mine threaten the river’s ecological integrity and the economy that depends on it.
Sandfire is an Australian-owned mining company that will pocket the lion’s share of profits. They’ve been clear about expanding the mine, but when profitability ceases, they’ll try to cut-and-run, leaving cleanup to Montanans.
The Smith River generates $10 million in annual economic activity to the State of Montana. The Outdoor Recreation Industry generates $7 billion in state revenue.
Jobs at Stake
Outfitters launch a set number of guided Smith River trips every year, creating Montana jobs. Outfitters are responsible stewards, and the money they generate stays in the state and has a substantial ripple effect on the economy—airfare, hotels, travel, and more.
$50 million in tax dollars already goes to mine clean-up. Do we want to add a failed mining experiment on the Smith River to the list, at the cost of existing, perpetual Montana jobs?
The best science indicates that the cement-tailings paste that will backfill the underground workings and surface tailings impoundment will break down and oxidize over time. This will cause acid mine drainage, which threatens to flow through fractures in the bedrock, into the groundwater, and ultimately into the Smith River.
Explosives used in the mine will create fractures in the bedrock. These fractures will create pathways for nitrates (explosives waste) and other contaminants to flow into groundwater
Disastrous for Clean Water
Nitrates, along with an increased temperature, promotes the growth of algae, which decreases the amount of available habitat for macroinvertebrates and gravel beds available for spawning. Not only that, but the mine would drop below the water table, and Sandfire would have to pump water out of the mine to keep it from flooding. The pumped wastewater would contain arsenic and other toxics. Sandfire didn’t properly account for the health of fish populations in their plan, and these results could be devastating.