By MEGAN AHERN/Montana State News

In December 2015, Canadian company Tintina Resources Inc. applied for a permit from the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to build an underground copper mine near Sheep Creek, an important tributary to the Smith River, according to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. The firm’s application is currently undergoing review from the DEQ.

Although Tintina Resources’ spokesperson have insisted that the project will not harm the Smith River, their nonchalance has done little to prevent public outcry from an angry coalition of environmental groups and Montana residents.

In addition to the assessment performed by the DEQ, both concerned citizens and organizations opposing the mine have recruited private consultants and industry experts to analyze the application, according to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.

Montana Trout Unlimited Director Bruce Farling explained why his group is among those who have hired independent reviewers.

“They have blown these things repeatedly in the past,” said Farling of the DEQ. “We don’t have a lot of confidence in their ability to get this right.”

According to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, the Smith River is considered a blue ribbon trout fishery, noted for its ecological health and abundance of rainbow, brown, westslope cutthroat and brook trout. The canyon walls surrounding the river also contain some of the best examples of Native American pictographs in Montana, according to Save Our Smith, a campaign created in opposition of Tintina Resources’ proposed mine.

The Montana Environmental Information Center (MEIC) has voiced concern regarding the implementation of the mine. MEIC said that because the excavation site is below the water line, Tintina Resources will have to pump out waste water to prevent flooding – especially due to the fact that the waste water could contain toxins such as arsenic and sulfide minerals. According to Save Our Smith, pumping sulfides into the river could lower the pH of the water to the point that it negatively impacts trout populations.

Tintina Resources’ application remains under review, and each deficiency that the DEQ finds will result in an additional 30 days of review, according to the DEQ.

– Edited by Jack Seeger

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