The CEO of Sandfire America, the company proposing a copper mine near White Sulphur Springs, died unexpectedly Saturday at age 58, the company announced. He lived in Helena.
“It is with great sadness and deep regret that Sandfire Resources America Inc. … announces the sudden passing of our CEO, John G. Shanahan. We extend our deepest condolences to Mr. Shanahan’s family and our tremendous gratitude for his outstanding leadership and enormous contribution, both to the mining industry worldwide and to Sandfire America,” Sandfire said in an announcement.
Shanahan died of natural causes. “John Shanahan had a sudden and unexpected heart attack while he was cycling, which was one of his great passions,” his family said through Sandfire.
Born in Australia, Shanahan attended the University of Melbourne before earning a graduate diploma in systems analysis and design from The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and an MBA from Columbia University, according to his company biography.
Shanahan staked an early career with mining firms in Australia before coming to the United States, working in mine commodity trading and finance. Before joining Sandfire in 2016, he was president and CEO of Revett Mining from 2008 to 2015, which ran the now shuttered Troy Mine in Lincoln County.
Sandfire, formerly known as Tintina Resources, is currently seeking a mine operating permit for the Black Butte Copper Project about 20 miles north of White Sulphur.
The project has stirred debate in recent years due to concerns about its proposed location in the Smith River watershed. The Montana Department of Environmental Quality requested additional time in March for completion of an environmental impact statement for the project, to which Sandfire agreed.
Shanahan had been a vocal advocate for Black Butte, often speaking publicly and talking to the media about the economic benefits to Meagher County.
“John was both well respected and well liked within Sandfire and the wider mining industry. His sudden passing is a great shock and a tragic loss, and our thoughts are with his family at this distressing time,” Matthew Fitzgerald, Sandfire chairman, said in a statement.
Sandfire announced that recently appointed Vice President of Project Development Rob Scargill has been appointed as interim CEO. Scargill was previously CEO of LeadFX Inc., a Canadian-based mining company with projects in Australia and Utah, according to Sandfire.