Sandfire Resources Ltd.’s 85% owned Black Butte copper project in Montana has achieved two key permitting milestones after two Montana government agencies each issued important components of the overall permitting process. The two key permitting milestones represent key steps to the company receiving a Record of Decision (ROD) for its Mine Operating Permit (MOP).

First is the release of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (MTDEQ). The MTDEQ commenced the EIS in September 2017 and released a Draft EIS in March 2019.

Issuance of the Final EIS signals that the MTDEQ, and its independent third-party environmental consultants, have completed all environmental reviews related to the Black Butte Copper Project and all issues raised during the public comment period have been responded to.

Second, the Department of Natural Resources & Conservation (MTDNRC) has issued a Preliminary Determination (PD) in response to the water right owners’ application to modify their irrigation water rights to include leasing water for mitigation for the Black Butte copper project. The proposed water right modification maintains water balance in the Sheep Creek drainage area.

The PD will also address Sandfire America’s request for a groundwater permit and a high flow water right to capture spring run-off and store in a reservoir, which will provide water to replenish stream flows year-round. The issuance of the PD triggers a comment period for other water rights holders prior to a Final Determination.

The achievement of these key milestones requires the MTDEQ to release a ROD, whether positive or negative, for Black Butte Copper’s MOP after a minimum of 15 days. Issuance of a positive ROD would require the MTDEQ to finalize a bond calculation within 40 days.

“The Final EIS represents a thorough evaluation of the potential impacts of this proposed project,” MTDEQ Director Shaun McGrath said. “Our review was informed not only by the DEQ scientists working on the project, but also by the thousands of comments submitted throughout the process. It was truly an extensive effort and we appreciate the public’s interest and participation.”

All the technical studies have now been completed for the Black Butte copper project feasibility study, which commenced in October 2018. Sandfire America released an updated Mineral Resource in October of 2019 for use as the foundation for the FS.

GR Engineering Services, SRK Consulting and others are now completing documentation of the technical sections. Once the ROD is published, the company said it can ensure that the designs and financial modelling in the FS are consistent with the permit requirements and to inform a decision to mine.

Sandfire Resources Ltd. has agreed to provide a US$2 million unsecured loan to Sandfire Resources America Inc. to cover anticipated expenditures through the ROD and completion of the FS. This is in addition to the US$3 million previously advanced.

Sandfire Resources Ltd. Managing Director and CEO Karl Simich said the achievement of these two key permitting milestones marked another integral step toward a development decision for a showcase underground copper mine in Montana.

“We are delighted to have achieved these milestones, which represent the culmination of a robust and lengthy permitting process, and I would like to congratulate the team for their dedication, hard work and relentless focus,” Simich said. “This is the result of more than four years of diligent effort, assisted by the team of Montana-based environmental and other consultants.”

“The EIS clearly shows our ability to build a modern underground mine that can be developed and operated while fully protecting the environment and water resources.”