Earlier this summer, I had the opportunity to attend and support a unique community event in White Sulphur Springs, Montana. This event was hosted by the Meagher County Stewardship Council, a local community group that formed in response to the potential development of a nearby large-scale underground copper mine called the Black Butte Copper Project. The Council’s mission focuses on protecting the long-term cultural, economic, and environmental interests of county residents. In support of this mission, the Council decided to invite community leaders from three mining communities—Marquette, MI; Jefferson County, MT; and Stillwater County, MT—for a two-day “peer-to-peer” workshop.
The peer workshop was firstly a chance for the invited guests to get a glimpse of the life and history of White Sulphur Springs and Meagher County. To enable this, the Council organized a tour of the community, surrounding area (including the potential mine site), and local businesses. This included discussions with community leaders in White Sulphur Springs around upcoming challenges and opportunities associated with hosting large-scale industrial projects. Following the tour, the Council organized a town hall event in which the invited guests formed a panel to share their insights and experiences around underground mining. This event allowed city and county residents to hear the real-life lessons from their peers in similar communities. The panel session was a facilitated discussion that was followed by a question and answer session where attendees could voice comments and concerns. By all accounts, the event was a huge success and resulted in a strong turnout from the community.
The day after the town hall, the Council held a meeting with the invitees and leaders in local government. This meeting was geared towards furthering the discussion and digging into the feedback given at the town hall. This allowed Council members the opportunity to explore ideas and suggestions they hope will form the foundation for a Community Benefits Agreement between the Council and Sandfire Resources America. Community Benefit Agreements are legal contracts between communities and mining companies with the goal of securing long-term benefits to those communities related to natural resource development.
Overall, the peer-to-peer workshop was a rare opportunity for community members to share knowledge and ideas around hosting mining projects. As part of our work in resource communities throughout the Western U.S., RCRG was thrilled to have the chance to help coordinate this event and continues to support the Council as they move forward. Below are a few photo highlights from the two days.