Forest Service is put on Notice.


These maps show gold claims by F3 Gold (working with Big Rock Exploration) and Mineral Mountain Resources in the central Black Hills. Disclaimer: Maps are based on Bureau of Land Management information, and accuracy is not guaranteed.  Mapped down to the quarter section.

The map titled “Some Gold Claims in Pennington, Lawrence, and Custer Counties” provides a broad view.  It shows all of F3 Gold’s claims in the Black Hills (red hatching) and the Mineral Mountain Resources’ (MMR) claims that were identified a few years ago (yellow hatching).

The map titled “Some Gold Claims in Central Black Hills” is a close-up of the F3 Gold claims in western Pennington and southern Lawrence Counties.  Note that there are MMR claims around the northwest and northeast edges of the map.  This map also shows how close claims are to Rockerville and Sheridan Lake (which is partly in a “crack” in the map), and that claims overlap with Pactola Lake.  MMR claims also come within about a mile of Rapid City.

Most of the F3 Gold claims and the MMR claims on the close-up map are in the Rapid Creek watershed, which means any spills or leaks in those areas would threaten Rapid City’s water supplies.  Smaller towns could be wiped off the map, as happened to the town of Trojan when Coeur Mining’s gold mine was created in the northern Black Hills during the last decade.  In order to stop these projects, we need to oppose them now.

Note that the maps are down to the quarter section, which is as much information as the federal government’s claims database provides.  So there may still be small areas that are not under claim in the hatch-marked areas on the map.  The tribal holding is marked on the larger map for information, not because it is under claims.  This is Pe’ Sla.


On Thursday March 28th, a group of concerned citizens put the Forest Service on Notice and presented the following Open Letter.


TO:              Mark Van Every, Forest Service Supervisor

           Jerry Krueger, Deputy Forest Service Supervisor

DATE: March 28, 2019

Pleased be advised that we, and many others, are concerned that the Forest Service appears to be in the process of green-lighting exploratory drilling in the Silver City-Pactola area by Big Rock Exploration company of Minneapolis.  Because the Forest Service (FS) has not been forthcoming, however, we have not had an opportunity to review either the process or its outcomes.  This leaves us with three major concerns and critical questions.

First, we are concerned that this exploratory drilling may happen without proper study and oversight. 

  • Does the FS have hydrological maps of the surface and underground water flows to depth in the drilling areas? 
  • What specific guarantees can the FS give the public that arsenic and radioactivity (potential by-products of the drilling process) will not enter surface or underground flows? 
  • What specific guarantees can the FS give residents of Silver City and the Black Hills that roads will not be harmed, that noise levels will be regulated, that surface vegetation will not be harmed, and that wildlife habitat will be [protected] preserved? 
  • What specific guarantees can the FS give recreational users of Pactola that fishing will be unaffected by the drilling? 
  • How often and how long will the proposed project area and its waters be regulated?  By whom? 
  • What protections will the FS provide for Rapid Creek and its connected groundwater, which are the only water sources for the state’s second-largest city? 

Second, tribal consultation is crucial.  Like much of the Black Hills, this area may contain loci of historical, spiritual, and cultural importance to Lakota and other indigenous peoples. 

  • Please produce the letters you have written to Tribal Historical Preservation Officers regarding this project, and their responses. 
  • Provide full information on the government-to-government consultation process, which clearly did not include the November 21, 2017, non-consultation meeting at the Holiday Inn in Rapid City, as this meeting occurred before anyone in the public knew about this proposed project. 
  • Please detail your plans to follow up with tribal officials, and your plans to assure that Big Rock Exploration will rely on these individuals’ expertise before an EA agreement is finalized.  We are aware that in the past the FS has allowed drillers to contract with non-Native companies who purport to do sensitive cultural surveys.  We certainly seek your assurance that this is not the case here.  
  • Government-to-government consultation must occur at the earliest possible point in the process around proposed projects, and you have already passed that point in time.

Third, we are concerned that the FS has not been proactive or transparent in its communication with the many stakeholders who are invested in studying, protecting, using, and preserving Black Hills water sources.  These include the residents in the area, the general public who use and enjoy Pactola Reservoir and Rapid Creek, scientists, and the many visitors who form one of the key bases for our area’s economy. 

  • Why has the proposal the FS wrote to Big Rock Exploration, detailing the scope and costs of the project, been withheld from one of our members, who has requested it on two occasions? 
  • Where is the letter or other communication providing for an EA? 
  • What planning has been done for the EA process, and why is the public not being informed about it in a meaningful way? 
  • Exactly where has drilling been requested?  On whose claims? 

Given the central nature of Pactola Reservoir to western South Dakota recreationists and visitors, it would seem imperative that every opportunity to invite broad public input would be offered.

These three concerns, and our questions, are the bedrock on which our concerns are built.  As you know, as a federal government employee, your responsibility is to all Americans.  We ask you to honor your duty to uphold the United States Constitution by providing detailed information about your plans to study and oversee any project that occurs on federal lands in the Black Hills, by conducting thorough and honest government-to-government consultation with area TREATY tribal governments, and by being transparent to the public – who are both your constituency and your employers – about what you are doing.

Thank you for your time and for your action.

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