Skip to main contentSkip to main content
You have permission to edit this article.
Guest column

Anglers asking for zero risk to Smith River

  • Updated
  • 0
Smith River 1 (copy)

Opponents of a proposed copper mine a mile away from a tributary of the Smith River have pointed to mining pollution affecting numerous water bodies around the state and say the Smith’s water quality and scenery as too valuable to risk.

Dear Governor Bullock:

We write today on behalf of representatives of Montana’s fly-fishing industry and others who share a grave concern regarding the proposed mine in the headwaters of the Smith River.

As you know, a foreign mining company, Tintina Resources, is poised to file an application with the state of Montana to construct a large copper mine in the watershed of one of our state’s crown fly fishing destinations. Although the proposed mine would be constructed on private land, its location directly beneath Sheep Creek is problematic. Sheep Creek is a major tributary, producing half of the Smith’s flows, and is crucial habitat for more than 50 percent of the Smith’s spawning trout.

No matter how you slice it, an industrial mine in the headwaters of the Smith River is a gamble for Montana’s sport fishing industry, which generates an estimated $500 million in economic activity each year. If anything were to go wrong, fishing guides, outfitters, and fishermen would be on the front lines of the disaster. This concern is further magnified because of who is in the driver’s seat.

Last September, Australian mining company Sandfire Resources invested heavily in the project, with an option to purchase a controlling share of Tintina. In a recent interview, Sandfire’s CEO was quoted saying his company wants “a clear path to control, otherwise we are not interested. Essentially unless we can pull levers and push buttons we have very little interest in being involved in something.”

Decisions by foreign investors who live over 8,000 miles away could have profound impacts on local Montanans who use the Smith River year in and year out.

Our ask is simple. Before any permit is granted and any construction take place, Tintina Resources and their investors should be held to a zero risk standard by the Department of Environmental Quality. They should be forced to meet the highest expectations of environmental protection ever put forward in the state of Montana.

We recognize in advance this could be a tough bar to meet. The track record of hard rock mines in Montana isn’t glowing. Mines like Kendall Mine near Lewistown, Beal Mountain Mine near Anaconda, and the Zortman-Landusky mines near Malta have shown that the pollution of our watersheds is an all-too-common occurrence.

Further, Tintina has yet to provide any evidence – let alone 100 percent sound scientific evidence - that the mine will not produce short term or long-term environmental impacts, or that when the mine closes, there will be no lasting pollution.

It is essential then that the Department of Environmental Quality establish a zero-risk threshold and closely scrutinize every detail of the upcoming mine proposal for its effects on water, wildlife, fish and the sustainable recreational economy the Smith river supports.

The question is not whether mining has a place in Montana. The question is whether Tintina resources and their investors can prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that a mine in the Smith River watershed is really worth the gamble.

Thank you for your consideration, and for making the valued outdoor treasures of Montana a priority.

Jess McGlothlin is the communications director for the American Fly Fishing Trade Association. This opinion was also written by Ben Bulis of the American Fly Fishing Trade Association and Marne Hayes of Business for Montana's Outdoors, and signed by 45 additional businesses. They are: 

KC Walsh, Simms Fishing Products

Adam Wagner, Sweetcast Angler

Michael White, Blue Ribbon Reps

Mark McGlothlin, Chi Wulff

John Way, The Tackle Shop

Jim Klug, Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures

Brandon Boedecker, PRO

Confluence Films

Robert Eddins, RO Drift Boats

Hilary Hutcheson, Outside Media

Jason Orzechowski, Wolf Creek Anglers

Frank Telleen, North 40 Outfitters

Nick English, Blue Ribbon Sales

Kevin Sloan, Sitka

Dan Rice, Bozeman Reel

Joe Dilschneider, Trout Stalkers

Janell & Derek DeYoung, DeYoung Studio

Alice Owsley, Riverside Anglers

Jarrett Voiles, Brook Fishing Equipment

Chris Fleck, Stillwater Anglers

Adam Wagner, Sweetcast Angler

Mike Bushly, Trout Montana

Dan and Diana Hirschi, Grizzly Hackle

Steve Summerhill, The River’s Edge

Steve Galletta, Bighorn Angler

Steve Fournier, Dr. Slick

Wade & Craig Fellin, Big Hole Lodge

Tom DiMeola, Madison River Fishing Company

Dick Greene, Bud Lilly’s Trout Shop

Pam and Rod King, Bozeman Angler

Adipose Boatworks

Amy Wiezalis, Grizzly Outfitters

Kelly Galloup, Slide Inn

Dan Vermillion, Sweetwater Travel Company

Mike & Laura Geary, Healing Water Lodge / Lewis and Clark Expeditions

Gia & Wayne Fairchild, Lews & Clark Trail Adventures

Cody Lawrence, Off the Beaten Path

Jess McGlothlin, Jess McGlothlin Media

Steve Cannon, PulseChecker

Pete Strom, Powerhouse ICS, La Parilla, The Garage

Bill Berg, CoolWorks

Spencer Williams, West Paw Design

Lance Trebesch, Ticket River/

Jeff Batton, Greenstone Growth Partners

Bill Stoddart, Nothfork Financial

You must be logged in to react.
Click any reaction to login.

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.


News Alert

Breaking News