HELENA – The Department of Environmental Quality says it needs more time to produce the draft environmental impact statement for a proposed copper mine in Central Montana.

Sandfire Resources America, the company previously known as Tintina Resources, is proposing the Black Butte Copper Project near White Sulphur Springs.

According to Montana law, the DEQ is required to issue a completed EIS 12 months after the original mine operating permit (MOP) is submitted.

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Following that standard, the finished EIS would have to be produced by September 18, 2018. But DEQ Public Policy Director Kristi Ponozzo told MTN Thursday they are expecting to have just the draft of the impact statement completed by that time.

DEQ sent a letter to Sandfire Tuesday, making the extension request. President and CEO John Shanahan told MTN this request, is not surprising and he believes the DEQ is ‘putting their best foot forward.’

John Shanahan, President and CEO of Sandfire Resources America

“We knew 12 months was going to be a difficult timeline to meet. But in all fairness to the DEQ, the agency has really gone about its work very diligently,” Shanahan went on to say. “There’s no short cuts here, they need to do a thorough and robust assessment, which I believe they are doing. We can’t force the pace, it is what it is, it has to be done correctly.”

Once the draft EIS is complete, there must be a public review period, which Ponozzo said will likely occur this fall.

The DEQ is also reviewing Sandfire’s air quality permit application as well as the updated surface water discharge permit application.

Sandfire also made two changes to its metal mine permit application; one that changes the locations of the potential rail load out facilities, removing Harlowton and Armington Junction, leaving just Townsend and Livingston. The other change aligns the metal mine application with the surface water discharge application.

The entire MOP can be found here.