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Mine opponents press Montana judge to order new review

July 19, 2021 GMT

BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) — Environmental groups pressed a state judge to order a new review of a Montana copper mine over worries that mining waste will pollute a river that’s popular among boaters.

Attorneys for Trout Unlimited and other groups argued that state officials did not adequately review the risk of toxic waste spills from the Black Butte copper mine north of White Sulphur Springs.

Work began last year on the mine along Sheep Creek, a tributary of the Smith River.

Montana Department of Environmental Quality attorney Sarah Clerget rejected worries the mine would pollute the Smith during Friday’s hearing before state District Judge Katherine Bidegary in Meagher County.

Clerget said the mine won’t leak or fail, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported.

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The underground mine proposed by Vancouver-based Sandfire Resources is on private land and would extract 15.3 million tons of copper-laden rock and waste over 15 years — roughly 440 tons a day.

The 110-mile Smith River runs through a limestone canyon and a scenic valley before flowing into the Missouri River south of Great Falls. The waterway is so popular the state holds an annual lottery for permits to float down it.