Montana’s highest court backs contested copper mine

By Hannah Northey | 02/27/2024 01:37 PM EST

The state Supreme Court reinstated a key permit for the proposed Black Butte Copper Project.


The Montana Supreme Court reinstated a key permit for a proposed copper mine in Montana. Staff Sgt. Nicholas Rau/Air Force

An underground copper mine in Montana near the Smith River that’s drawn legal fire from environmental groups is once again moving forward after the state’s Supreme Court on Monday reinstated a permit for the project.

The court in a 5-2 decision upheld the Montana Department of Environmental Quality’s approval of the proposed Black Butte Copper Project, overturning a lower court’s ruling that invalidated the permit for the 1,888-acre mine near Sheep Creek, a trout-spawning tributary of the river near White Sulphur Springs.
court in a 5-2 decision

Canada-based Sandfire Resources, which is developing the mine, said the legal ruling will allow the project to progress, even as environmental groups vowed to continue fighting the project by focusing their opposition on a separate water permit.


“The fact is, ours is the most reviewed and examined proposed project in the history of Montana mining,” Lincoln Greenidge, CEO of Sandfire Resources America, said in a statement. “Now, we look forward to progressing the project in a safe, responsible, and sustainable manner.”