UPDATE SEPT. 15, 2020
The South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources has given notice that Mineral Mountain Resources (MMR) of Canada has applied for a new gold exploration permit. In South Dakota, companies need to apply and check off a few boxes, and then the state gives them a permit. There is no public comment opportunity and no way to intervene in the process. This permit is known as EXNI 435.
The exploration is planned for an area about one mile east of Rochford in the central Black Hills, in the general area where MMR has explored before. The proposed exploration area includes a stretch of the Mickelson Trail, which is used by hikers and bicyclists, and could be visible from Rochford Road. Like the company’s past exploration, it is within a few miles of Pe’ Sla, an important Lakota cultural site.
The permit is for 45 holes with depths down to 5,000 feet below ground. The project would include about a mile of new trails. MMR says that mining exploration liquid wastes will be left in a plastic-lined hole to evaporate, then the plastic will be removed and the hole filled. There are questions about what would happen to the liquids in the hole, if there was a major rain or snow event and whether the liquids will evaporate in the winter.
If the company decides to move to mining in this particular spot, it is possible that designating the area as a federal recreation area would not stop the project, as the company has patented mining claims. This means they own the mineral rights. It would all depend on exactly where the gold was found, compared to where the patented mining claims are located. A lot of the company’s claims are not patented.
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:
TEMPORARY PERMIT TO USE PUBLIC WATERS FOR TESTING PURPOSES
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 DENRINTERNET@state.sd.us
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
- MMR’s Plan of Operations for the public (Forest Service) lands Plan of Operations – Mineral Mountain
- This 1972 study of gold potential in the area from the US Geological Survey is being used by MMR for their wording to promote the MMR project. A Preliminary Report on the Geology and gold Deposits of the Rockford District
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