Montana Public Radio

Initial Bond For Central Montana Copper Mine Set At $4.6M

May 22, 2020

Operators of a central Montana copper mine will be required to post a $4.6 million bond before construction can begin, according to state officials. The Independent Record reported it will be the first of multiple bonds the company will need to pay to mine near White Sulphur Springs.

The state Department of Environmental Quality announced the bond calculation Wednesday for the first phase of the Black Butte Copper Project after Sandfire Resources America satisfied environmental reviews for an operating permit.

The money will be used as security to cover environmental cleanup costs should the company not complete required reclamation, officials said.

Sandfire Resources America is expected to post the bond and begin construction in June, senior vice president Jerry Zieg said. The company will finance its bonding in increments as multiple phases develop.

The first phase only includes construction on the surface including building a small reservoir, he said.

“It’ll take us the rest of this year to complete that batch of work,” Zieg said. “We won’t go underground or construct the portal until next year.”

The estimated total bonding for the Black Butte Copper Project has not yet been released, but it is expected to operate for 13 years, company officials said.

The company is seeking about $300 million to develop the project and expects to bring in about $2 billion, CEO Rob Scargill said. About half of the expected revenue would stay in Montana in the form of taxes, wages, leases and other services.

Opponents of the mine have argued against its proximity to Smith River, one of the state’s most popular recreational rivers. The complaints reference ongoing mining pollution in other parts of the state that occurred when companies went bankrupt and state and federal agencies had to take over cleanup efforts.

Supporters of the mine said modern mining techniques would protect environmental concerns.