City of Helena Adopts Smith River Resolution

October 18, 2016  Helena Independent Record   By Tom Kuglin, IR

Following lengthy public comment (including comments from TSRA’s Executive Director in opposition), the Helena City Commission adopted a resolution Monday evening calling for assurance that a proposed Meagher County copper mine will not harm the Smith River.

Commissioners Robert Farris-Olsen, Ed Noonan and Andres Haladay voted in favor of the resolution while Mayor Jim Smith and Commissioner Dan Ellison opposed.  

The vote comes more than three weeks after Farris-Olsen first pushed the resolution, citing the negative impact of potential degradation of the Smith River would have on people and businesses in Helena.  The language calls for skepticism in viewing Tintina  Resources’ proposed Black Butte Copper Project, and asking for “absolute certainty” that the mine will not adversely affect the river…The resolution is an expression of the commission’s opinion and does not put city resources towards opposition of Black Butte.  The measure has still generated signifiant public interest in both Lewis and Clark and Meagher counties.

Those speaking in favor of the resolution Monday hammered mining’s legacy of pollution and failed companies while proclaiming the Smith as a natural wonder deserving of protection…Opposition to the resolution has come from officials in Meagher County and White Sulphur Springs with letters from both the county commission and city council there criticizing the resolution.  Others in both counties have questioned the appropriateness of the Helena commission taking on an issue more than 70 miles away and potentially straining the business relationship between Helena and White Sulphur Springs.

“Your resolution, while obviously well intentioned, is a direct attack on our economy and our future economy,” White Sulphur Springs City Councilman George Kirkwood told the Helena commission…

“This resolution establishes nothing.  It certainly doesn’t establish an absolute certainty standards.  It doesn’t tell DEQ to do anything,” (Commissioner) Haladay said.  “It is a statement from a people’s body representative of a certain jurisdiction in that state…”

(Editor’s Note:  According to information published in an earlier Independent Record article (10/6/16) Commissioner Farris-Olsen is married to Erin Farris-Olsen, a board member of the Montana Environmental Information Center.  MEIC has been a leading critic of the proposed mine.  One of the principals in the law firm where Commissioner Farris-Olsen works is also an MEIC Board member.  When asked, he stated “he did not see it as a conflict of interest to bring the resolution.”

In the meantime, TSRA submitted the attached guest column regarding the Tintina project that was published in several state newspapers.  To read the column, Click Here:  black-butte-project-highlights-contemporary-mining-protocols-1