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Black Butte copper project, US

12th June 2020

By: Sheila Barradas

Creamer Media Research Coordinator & Senior Deputy Editor

     

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Name of the Project
Black Butte copper project.

Location
The project is located on private land near Helena, Montana, in the US.

Project Owner/s
Tintina Montana, a subsidiary of Sandfire America.

Project Description
Black Butte is one of the top ten undeveloped copper projects by grade worldwide.

The project development is focused on the Johnny Lee copper deposit, WHICH represents one of the highest copper grade undeveloped projects in the world, with  a measured and indicated undiluted resource of 10.9-million tonnes at 2.9% copper, including a Lower Copper Zone with a copper grade of 6.8%.  

The project involves the development and underground mining of the Johnny Lee deposit.

This will be a relatively shallow underground mine accessed by a 1 700 m decline to access first the Upper Copper Zone (60 m to 200 m), followed by additional development to reach the Lower Copper Zone (300 m to 500 m).

A drift-and-fill mining method will use cemented paste backfill, eliminating subsidence and placing almost half of the tailings back underground.

The other half of the tailings will be safely stored in a high-density polyethylene double-lined cemented tailings facility as a dry solid.

The operation will use a conventional process of crush-grind-froth flotation processing.

Potential Job Creation
The project is expected to create 240 jobs in the area.

Net Present Value/Internal Rate of Return
Not stated.

Capital Expenditure
Not stated.

Planned Start/End Date
Not stated.

Latest Developments
The Black Butte copper project is facing a lawsuit filed by several groups opposing its development because of the mine’s potential impact on the Smith river.

Montana Trout Unlimited, Montana Environmental Information Center, Trout Unlimited, Earthworks, and American Rivers filed the lawsuit on June 4 in the state district court, challenging the mine operating permit approved by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (MT DEQ), alleging failure to conduct a thorough environmental analysis and ignoring more than 12 000 public comments opposing the mine.

The coalition is represented by the nonprofit environmental law firm Earthjustice.

Attorney Ben Scrimshaw said that the groups opposing the project were concerned about the mine’s potential to “permanently damage Montana’s crown jewel river”.

“One of our major concerns is . . . Tintina Montana’s use of a wholly untested technique for disposing of toxic mine waste that could result in widespread contamination of Smith river tributaries. We believe M DEQ erred in issuing this permit and this is only our first salvo in our defence of Montana’s irreplaceable Smith river,” Scrimshaw said in a statement.

Sandfire America CEO Rob Scargill expressed disappointment in the litigation and said that it seemed as if no major natural resource project in Montana went unchallenged, despite strict regulations and processes.

The Black Butte project received a positive record of decision on April 9, allowing Sandfire America subsidiary Tintina Montana to develop and mine the Johnny Lee deposit.

From that time, the MT DEQ had 40 days to finalise a financial bond calculation, which would pave the way for construction to start. The department issued a Phase 1 bonding number May 19, establishing a bond of $4.65-million for the project. The initial bond increment covers only Phase 1 surface construction of the mine site.

A second bond increment has to be calculated for Phase 2, which includes further underground development, mill construction and activities involving water use.

Sandfire America (has said that it) is finalising a construction contract for the start of surface earthworks, which were scheduled to start (summer) after the company had secured the Phase 1 bond amount.

Key Contracts and Suppliers
GR Engineering Services (definitive feasibility study); Mining Plus (mineral reserve statement) and SRK Consulting (mineral resource statement).

Contact Details for Project Information
Sandfire Resources America Inc VP of Communications Nancy Schlepp, tel + 1 406 547 3466 or email nschlepp@sandfireamerica.com.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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