In the News

Minnesota company plans gold exploration in Black Hills

A Minnesota company plans to conduct exploratory drilling for gold near Silver City in the central portion of the Black Hills National Forest, while two other companies have withdrawn proposals to drill on forest land.

Big Rock Exploration, of Minneapolis, has submitted a proposed plan of operations for the Silver City area, said Mark Van Every, the forest supervisor. He divulged some information about the plan Wednesday during a meeting of the Black Hills National Forest Advisory Board at the Mystic Ranger District Office in Rapid City. … Read More




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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia issued a decision on Friday, July 20, in the case Oglala Sioux Tribe v. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The Court’s decision supports the Tribe’s arguments and is an important step in protecting the Black Hills from uranium mining.

Download complete document: OST v NRC Court merits decision filed 7-20-18

The decision is one step in a long process surrounding the proposed Dewey-Burdock uranium mine in Custer and Fall River Counties on the southwest edge of the Black Hills. The project would use the in situ leach method of uranium mining and includes over 10,000 acres. It would also have dire consequences for Lakota cultural resources, the area’s water, and our tourism and agriculture economy.

The case was filed by the Oglala Sioux Tribe in an attempt to protect cultural resources and reverse a license that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued to Powertech/Azarga, a foreign company. The license would allow the company to handle radioactive materials as part of mining and processing uranium.

EPA Hearing Valentine NE 4-27-17 1The Tribe said that the NRC staff’s issuance of a license before considering the potential impacts of mining on cultural resources was wrong. The Court of Appeals agreed, chiding the NRC for a pattern of issuing licenses before full consideration of projects’ potential impacts. The Court said that the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires that all potential impacts of a project be thoroughly considered before a license is issued. This decision could have far-reaching impacts, as it supports the NEPA process at a time when it is under attack by the Trump administration.

The Court stopped short of overturning the company’s license. Instead, it returned the case to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for further consideration in light of its discussion in the decision. This discussion makes it clear that the Commission should not have issued the license until identification and consideration of cultural resources was complete under the NEPA process. The Court also effectively forbade any ground disturbing activities until all laws are complied with.

The company would need to get at least ten permits and licenses to be able to start its mining project. After 12 years of activity in South Dakota, it has only received the NRC license, and that license is now in danger of being reversed.

Clean Water Alliance applauds the Court’s decision and the Oglala Sioux Tribe’s leadership on this issue. We now hope that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will follow the law, take away the company’s license, and complete consideration of all potential impacts from this project. We believe that full consideration will show that the proposed uranium mine’s impacts would be unacceptable and that the project should not go ahead.

Mni Ki Wakan Summit

For more information or how to register, please go to

The Mni Ki Wakan: World Indigenous Peoples Decade of Water Summit is an indigenous-led initiative that is dedicated to elevating indigenous voices on water and human rights. Each year, it will convene indigenous peoples, youth, global actors, and allies from the international community at the host site designated by indigenous peoples.

Clean Water Alliance, along with others listed, are pleased to be Co-hosting this important youth-led summit happening here in the Black Hills.

The Mni Ki Wakan International Indigenous Water Conference will begin on Aug 13 – 15, 2019 at the Ramkota Hotel, 2111 N Lacrosse St, Rapid City, SD. Other hotels are available in the area. Camping will also be available at the Rosebud Bear Butte Lodge, 13029 Coyote Place (located at the Northwest corner of the butte, just east of Sturgis). For lodging info. contact

Endangered Species Day – May 17

Outdoor Campus West

On May 17 — Friday — Clean Water Alliance will be joining with other area organizations to celebrate Endangered Species Day. This is a national event that has been celebrated locally for some years. This year, there will be presentations on a number of endangered and threatened species in western South Dakota — some of which could become important in relation to mining issues. The event is at 6:00 at the Outdoor Campus West on Sturgis Road just north of West Chicago Avenue (the address is Adventure road).

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.

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.

Please join us on Facebook for immediate updates. You can also join us to received email notices on these issues, Call To Action, meetings, and public events and hearings.

Pactola Needs Our Protection


Another gold exploration company has come to the Black Hills. It is named Big Rock Exploration, and it is from Minnesota. This is an inexperienced company that wants to prove it can explore by looking for gold in the Black Hills. The site where they want to explore is right by the inlet to Pactola Reservoir, which Rapid City uses for its water.

CALL TO ACTION! Act now! Get on the phone or e-mail your Tribal Council, State Legislators, City Council, and County Commission. Tell them to actively oppose gold exploration in the central Black Hills. We don’t need talk. We need immediate action.

F3 Gold is the company that holds the mining claims where Big Rock Exploration wants to explore for gold in the central Black Hills. There are 2485 active F3 Gold mining claims in the Black Hills in Lawrence, Custer, and Pennington Counties. Big Rock Exploration wants to explore by Silver City. They may not control all F3 Gold claims.

There are 14 claims within the section (1 mile square) that includes Silver City. These claims are to the west of and include the area where Rapid Creek forms the inlet to Pactola Reservoir. This poses a major threat to Pactola, if exploration occurs. And Pactola Reservoir is where Rapid City gets its water, as well as being a popular recreation site.

Along the north side of Pactola Reservoir, there are 53 claims in the sections that touch the water (i.e., within 1 mile of the lakeshore).

Along Rapid Creek and just above the inlet (within 4 or 5 miles), there are another 79 claims. Some are clearly very close to the Creek.

Note: Big Rock is circulating a map, but it doesn’t show all claims. It just shows two small areas on Forest Service land where it wants to explore. For recent information and maps click the button below.

Call To Action – HB 1153



  1. Call HOUSE REPS in the House State Affairs Committee
  2. SEND Emails to Committee Members IN SUPPORT of HB 1153 ahead of the Hearing. Make Reference to HB 1153 and “Protection of Historic Properties.”
  3. Come Support in Person at the State Affairs Committee Meeting in Pierre, SD, State Capitol Room 414 on MWF 7:45 am (Central Time)

House Bill 1153 has been introduced in the South Dakota Legislature. The bill would bring state law in alignment with federal law, specifically section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. Section 106 requires consultation with tribes and Tribal Historic Preservation Officers as part of the review process when mining is proposed in an area. Including tribes and THPOs will help protect cultural and environmental resources when mining is proposed.


Download the Call To Action Flyer PDF to print and share.


COMMENTS ON PROPOSED CHANGE TO ACID LEACH URANIUM MINE.  – Had to be MAILED by Jan. 22nd.  We will continue to monitor this issue and update as necessary.

Photo courtesy of NPS

Please take a few minutes to read this and then to write a letter to stop a bad plan for uranium mining on the northwest edge of the Black Hills.  Strata Energy operates the Ross in situ leach uranium mine in view of Mato Tipila, also known as Devil’s Tower, an important cultural/sacred site, and now a National Monument. 

This mine has been operating using the same type of leaching as other modern ISL uranium mines in the U.S., alkaline leaching.  But now it wants to change to using sulfuric acid for the leaching.  This would be the first commercial-scale acid leach uranium mine in the country.


We oppose changing to acid leaching.  We want the mine shut down.  Get written comments in the mail to the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality by Tuesday, January 22.  Mailing information is below.

Here are some things you might want to include in your comments:

  • This mine should not be allowed to operate in sight of an important cultural and sacred site.  Instead of extending its life by using acid leaching, the mine should be shut down.
  • The history of in situ leach uranium mining shows that there will be leaks and spills of the sulfuric acid.  Spills at some modern mines have been extensive, and you should not assume it won’t happen at the Ross mine.
  • There hasn’t been much study of acid leach uranium mining by independent scientists (who aren’t working for uranium companies).  The studies that do exist show that restoring the groundwater after mining is unlikely.  The mine should not be switched to acid leaching.  It should be shut down before any further damage is done.
  • The money that has been set aside to deal with problems is not adequate.  If acid leaching is allowed, then additional money needs to be set aside.  It’s harder to restore water after acid leaching than after alkaline ISL uranium mining – and it takes longer.
  • Strata Energy is part of Peninsula Minerals, a company from Australia.  If there are problems, nothing prevents the company from walking away and leaving U.S. taxpayers with the bill.  Many uranium mines in the Black Hills have been abandoned without being cleaned up.  We don’t need another one.

The State of Wyoming won’t take comments that are e-mailed or faxed, and comments must be received in Cheyenne on January 26 – a Saturday – so actually on January 25.  

Mail your comments by Tuesday, January 22, to Administrator, Land Quality Division, Department of Environmental Quality, 200 W. 17th Street, Suite 10, Cheyenne, WY. 82002.