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for gold near Silver City in the central portion of the Black Hills National Forest, while two other companies have withdrawn proposals to drill on forest land.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

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. 


Azarga’s Needs these Permits

Azarga needs at least 10 permits/licenses before it can legally mine uranium in the Dewey-Burdock area in the Southern Black Hills.

They are:

  • NRC License (they have it, but can’t use it until litigation is settled)
  • EPA ISL mining permit
  • EPA deep disposal well permit
  • State mining permit
  • State water permit for Inyan Kara formations
  • State water permit for Madison formation
  • State wastewater spraying permit
  • BLM permission
  • NPDES wastewater permit
  • Army Corps of Engineers permit (this is actually a question mark right now, due to changes in federal law)

There will probably also be county permits in Custer County. None needed in Fall River County, as they’ve given them a green light as of like 9 years ago.


SD grants MMR Temporary Water Permit

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota has approved a temporary water permit for an exploratory gold drilling project in the Black Hills despite opposition from Native American tribal officials and environmental groups.

The state Water Management Board’s approval clears the way for Mineral Mountain Resources to withdraw water from Rapid Creek through Dec. 31 to lubricate its drilling near Rochford, roughly 35 miles west of Rapid City. The Canadian company had been buying water from the city of Lead since its former water permit expired in May.


1872 Mining Act Reform

There is a new effort to reform the 1872 Mining Law, which is the law that permits companies to mine on federal public lands without paying any royalties. There’s more information on the and on the reform effort here —

Mining Reform Bill Introduced on Anniversary of Infamous 1872 Law
Grijalva-Lowenthal proposal would bring U.S. mining law into the 21st Century

Washington, D.C. – House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Raul Grijalva (D-AZ-3) and Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA-47) today introduced the Hardrock Leasing and Reclamation Act of 2018, which would give Americans more choices in how our public lands agencies balance hardrock mining with other land uses. The bill would replace the 1872 General Mining Law, which still governs mining for gold, copper, uranium and other hardrock minerals on publicly owned lands managed by the federal government . Today’s introduction coincides with the 146th birthday of the 1872 law, and an aggressive mining industry push to further erode already flimsy environmental and community protections against the impacts of hardrock mining.

“Representative Grijalva and Lowenthal’s bill would bring 19th century mining law into the 21st century,” said Lauren Pagel, Earthworks’ Policy Director. “It would bring badly needed reforms that work for western communities, taxpayers, the environment, and responsible mining companies.”

Unlike all other land uses, the 1872 law in practice makes mining the highest and best use. If a mining company discovers valuable minerals on public domain lands, land managers interpret the law as to given them no choice but to permit mining, no matter if the land is better used for recreation, conservation, renewable energy, or even fossil fuel extraction.

Also unlike other extractive industries, under the 1872 law, mining companies pay no royalties. Whoever stakes a claim and discovers valuable minerals on public lands claims those riches — more than $300 billion and counting since 1872 — without giving taxpayers a dime for them.

The 1872 law also does not charge a fee for abandoned mine cleanup, the cost of which often falls to taxpayers. The EPA estimates the backlog of cleanup costs for these mines at $20-$54 billion — vastly more than the entire annual Superfund budget.

Grijalva & Lowenthal’s bill would update the mining law by addressing those issues and:
Allow land managers to balance other public land uses such as recreation, hunting, fishing, and wildlife habitat conservation with hardrock mining.
Prohibit mines that would pollute water in perpetuity.

Provide a fair return to the U.S. Treasury on minerals taken from public lands.
Start a polluters pay dedicated fund for the $50 billion clean up bill for the hundreds of thousands of abandoned hardrock mines that litter our public lands.
Protect National Monuments, National Parks, Wilderness Study Areas, Roadless Areas, Wild and Scenic Rivers and other areas of critical environmental concern from irresponsible mining.

For all but existing producing claims, replace mining claims with a leasing system similar to that used for oil, gas and coal mining on public lands.

“The Grijalva-Lowenthal bill would give public land owners — all Americans — a choice when mining is proposed on their land,” said Pagel. “Under the 1872 law, we have no choice because mining is prioritized over every other land use. Reform must focus on protecting communities and the environment by balancing industrial scale mining with other land uses, such as conservation, recreation and tourism, drinking water supplies, and renewable energy development.”

The need for reform grows more pressing with each passing year. Some of the most abundant deposits remain harder-to-reach and more wasteful, posing a greater risk to local communities and the water they depend upon.

For More Information
Text of the Hardrock Leasing and Reclamation Act of 2018 – House Natural Resources Democrats
Title by title summary of HRLA of 2018 – House Natural Resources Democrats
Flowchart explaining how mining claims would be converted to leases – House Natural Resources Democrats
Text of the General Mining Law of 1872 – U.S. Code
1872 Mining Law 101 – Earthworks

Gold Mining Threats: Maps and more.


This is what the central Black Hills could look like, if a Canadian company has its way.

There are two exploration efforts underway by Mineral Mountain Resources.  One is on private land, and this is the part of the project that the State of South Dakota has given permission to go forward.

The State has given the company an exploration permit and a temporary water permit.  This project is now underway, with drilling rig entering the Rochford/Pe’ Sla area.

The second exploration effort is on US Forest Service lands.  These are public lands controlled by the federal government.  The Forest Service is going through a process that the company hopes will lead to permission to drill on public lands.  People are active in this process, making the points that the drilling would take place upstream from Rapid City (which uses the water that comes from the area) and would take place by Pe’ Sla, a critical Lakota historical and cultural site.  Land at Pe’ Sla was re-purchased by several tribal governments a few years ago.
The entire Black Hills were reserved by the Lakota (Sioux) under the 1851 and 1868 Fort Laramie Treaties.  The tribal governments and treaty councils are active on this issue.

Following is a list of documents and maps for more information:


This temporary permit is issued (by the State of South Dakota DENR) with the following qualifications:

Mineral Mountain Resources (SD) Inc. shall notify the Chief Engineer prior to the commencement of pumping from Rapid Creek and the approximate length of time the diversion will be taking place. The amount of water diverted from Rapid Creek shall be metered, the amount recorded and the amount reported monthly to the Chief Engineer. Notification and reporting may be submitted electronically at

Read more… Temporary Water Permit from the state for 1/2/18 to 5/1/18

These document are NFS Letter for categorical exclusion, MMR’s Plan of Operation and the 1972 Gold potential report:
  • The Forest Service’s letter saying they plan to issue a categorical exclusion, which would let the drilling on public lands go forward without an Environmental Impact Statement.  FS Letter re Categorical Exclusion 8-14-17


Maps of potential drill sites from Forest Service — these are sites on public lands, not the sites that the company is trying to drill on now 

  •  Topographic map of Forest Service sites


  • Topographic map showing potential drill sites on public lands.Topo map of MMR Activities from FS 1-18.jpg


  • MMR’s claims (area marked in yellow)



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