An Australian mining company now owns more than one-third of Tintina Resources, the company proposing to build a copper mine a mile from a tributary of the Smith River.
Sandfire Resources NL agreed to purchase 80 million shares of Tintina at $0.20 per share for $16 million. Sandfire is based in Perth, Australia, and owns the DeGrussa Copper-Gold Mine northwest of Perth, according to a Tintina news release.
Tintina is traded on the Vancouver, British Columbia, stock exchange.
Sandfire now owns more of Tintina at 36 percent than any other investor, said Nancy Schlepp, public relations officer for Tintina.
Quantum Partners LP and Electrum Strategic Metals LLC combined hold approximately 57.9 percent of Tintina, the news release said.
As part of the sale, Sandfire will appoint its chief business development officer, Bruce Hooper, as the new president and CEO of Tintina. Tintina’s interim CEO and director planned on retiring before the sale, Schlepp said.
The sale will not affect the management team in Montana, she said.
“This should not change anything — we’ll still have the same core team and philosophies,” Schlepp said. “They like the approach and the team that’s been built.”
The Black Butte Copper Project is located about 15 miles north of White Sulphur Springs, and one mile from Sheep Creek, a tributary of the Smith River. Tintina estimates copper revenues could run $2 billion in an 11 to 14 year lifespan of the mine.
With Sandfire’s investment, Tintina now has around $18.5 million on hand, the news release said. The contract includes the option for Sandfire to buy a total of $44 million in shares, giving it a 53 percent stake.
“We now have the money to go to the next step, and possibly more exploration,” Schlepp said.
Schlepp recently told a civic group in Helena that if the mine goes forward, the tax base in Meagher County would increase by more than $20 million.
The investment by Sandfire was a welcome development that would be part of an economic driver in Montana, said Jerry Zieg, vice president of exploration for Tintina.
“With Sandfire's financial and technical support, we can realize our vision of a 21st century mining operation that fits well with our ranching community and protects the landscape and waterways we all value,” he said.
Sandfire’s entry into Canadian owned Tintina has some conservation groups concerned, including the Montana Environmental Information Center who sued Tintina and the Montana Department of Environmental Quality over the approval of a decline to survey the ore deposit.
“The biggest point to take home is now we seem to be dealing with a multinational corporation,” said Derf Johnson, associate program director for MEIC. “It’s concerning about who’s calling the shots with a board of directors thousands of miles away, and the locals they’ve hired in the community not having any real power. This is a turn for the worse for this project.”
Johnson said the MEIC-supported online petition called “Save Our Smith” has nearly 1,200 signatures with a goal of 5,000 by next summer. Petition organizers plan to send the petition to Gov. Steve Bullock and DEQ Director Tracy Stone Manning, he said.