Yes, water monitoring is important and accomplishes two things. First, it allows us to establish a baseline understanding of water quality and quantity under conditions prior to mining. Second, after mining is underway, monitoring allows us to detect any changes in water quality or quantity. Montana has very stringent water quality laws that protect the environment by stipulating that if we are not meeting all standards, we will be shut down immediately until resolution that protects the environment is completed.
Information Type FAQs
The Johnny Lee deposit at Black Butte is named for a homesteader/prospector who lived above the deposit in the early 1900s. The mineral deposit includes two sheet-like zones rich in extremely high-grade copper ore contained in a copper-iron-sulfide mineral (chalcopyrite). It is one of the highest-grade copper deposits currently under development in the world. In fact, it is more than 10 times higher in copper concentration than copper deposits mined by modern surface mining methods.
Although there are active fault zones in Montana, the fault closest to the deposit called the Volcano Valley Fault is dormant. This is a major fault zone passing between the upper and lower zones of the Johnny Lee deposit. Current geologic interpretations indicate that this fault is long dormant (80 million years) and poses no threat to the mining operation or environment.
Our guiding principle on this front is to help the local community become who it wants to be for the next three generations. We are taking several proactive approaches to ensure an economically and socially viable community after the mine is complete. First, in Montana we are fortunate to have the Hard Rock Mining Impact Plan (HRMIP) Act which necessitates planning with the community and making money available to them for transitioning the community out of mining after mine closure and reclamation. Second, we helped create the Meagher County Stewardship Council to oversee the mine on behalf of the community; one of their priorities is establishing long lasting return to the community. Additionally, increased tax revenues generated during the life of the mine will result in city and county infrastructure upgrades providing benefits long after mine closure. Finally, we encourage community members to use this time of increased prosperity during mining to develop new opportunities for themselves.
The State of Montana requires any company that wants to mine to pay for a bond that covers the complete cost of reclamation before they can begin construction of the mine. The Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) establishes the bond amount. Over many years of mining in Montana, the DEQ has gained a clear understanding of the costs required to close a mine. They calculate the bond amount based on 3rd party reclamation costs for worst-case reclamation scenario for each part of the project for fully reclaiming the property. The Company is required to post the full amount before it can begin mine construction. Initial bonding for Black Butte Copper covers Phase 1 of development which includes construction of some initial surface facilities and some roads. This bond is currently set at $4.6 million. The company must post a second much larger bond amount to cover a second phase of development which includes the majority of surface facilities and the underground mining needed to access the copper deposit which the DEQ has not calculated yet. Once set, the bonding level is reviewed every year and is completely recalculated every 5 years.
Sandfire must carry out and pay for all reclamation activities during operations and following mine closure as required by law. As a safety net for the citizens of Montana, if for some unforeseen reason this cannot happen, the State of Montana requires mining companies to provide adequate reclamation bonding to cover the costs of third-party reclamation of the site on behalf of the state of Montana.
The reclamation process will return all disturbed land back to historic ranch use- primarily cattle grazing. The mill and portal area and all roadways will be reclaimed with all buildings and facilities removed and the plant site is taken down. The cemented tailings facility is sealed inside a 100-mil liner and covered with several feet of subsoil and topsoil and then revegetated. The company will fill underground mined areas with cemented paste backfill during the course of mine, and after mining water tables will return to pre-mining levels.
Currently, the Company has 25 employees, several contractors and many businesses working on the project and has invested on the average $6,607,846 million per year in Montana since the mining project’s inception in 2010.
Sandfire has spent approximately $147,791,421 million to date including the cost to receive a Mine Operating Permit. A great deal of this investment will benefit the White Sulphur Springs community and the surrounding area.
The Montana Hard Rock Mining Impact Act, a law unique to Montana and of great importance for local governments, requires a large-scale mineral development to prepare a Hard Rock Mining Impact Plan (“HRMIP”) which describes the social and economic impacts the mineral development will have on affected units of local government. The Company must then provide the local governmental entities funding to address identified financial impacts. Local government entities affected by Black Butte Copper are Meagher County, the City of White Sulphur Springs, and White Sulphur Springs Public School District #8. The agreed Black Butte Copper HRMIP required the Company to place $437,000 into an escrow account available for access by the local government entities as needed during mine construction. Over the years of 2020, 2021, and 2022, all money was drawn from the account for use by these entities. This process undergoes an annual review ensuring that the mine is adequately covering impacts.