Lithium Rush in the Black Hills

NOW IT’S ABOUT LITHIUM! The south-central Black Hills now has two mining exploration projects that have staked mining claims and are looking for lithium. If you’ve heard of lithium, it’s probably because it’s used in batteries, including electric vehicle batteries, batteries for cell-phones and laptops, rechargeable batteries, toys, and more.

In the U.S. there is a lithium rush right now due to the Biden Administration prioritizing mining for materials for renewable energy and electric vehicles. This Administration is pushing lithium mining as part of its “green energy” program. Mining lithium is not “green.” Like other mining, it is dangerous to water and wildlife, scars the land, and uses large amounts of water.

The two companies that we know of are:

  • United Lithium has a large exploration project immediately south of Custer, covering a total of over 15 square miles. It covers parts of Highway 385 and Highway 16. Their project is called the Liberty Project.
  • IRIS Metals has two lithium exploration sites. One, called the Custer Project, is south of Custer between the town and the state park. The other, called the Dewy Project, covers an area on both sides of Highway 16 heading to Hill City.
New map that shows where these mining projects are located in Custer County. We will continue to update this map with any new developments.

These two lithium projects are in addition to the Newark gold project, which is to the immediate west of Custer along Highway 16 and to the north. The Newark gold project is controlled by F3 Gold, a company that has approximately 54,000 acres of mining claims in the central and southern Black Hills.

According to IRIS Metals, their Dewy Project consists of 250 BLM (Bureau of Land Management) Lode Claims and covers an area of approximately 5,165 Acres. Their Custer Project is 275 BLM Lode Claims and covers 5,681 Acres.

Claims in Red show the vast area that are sites for exploration/mining by this project.

United Lithium Corp., a Canadian company, has staked over 500 claims (about 10,000 acres) in an area south of Custer and along Highways 16 and 385 that it has branded its “Liberty” project. The area is scenic and includes homes interspersed with US Forest Service-controlled lands. The company’s claims map is attached (we included some road names). According to the Secretary of State’s website, United Lithium is not registered to do business in South Dakota.

United Lithium focuses on exploration and mine development and also has projects in Canada, Finland, and Sweden. It claims that it focuses on “politically safe jurisdictions.”

IRIS is an Australian-based exploration company seeking gold, nickel and lithium in Western Australia and now in the south-central Black Hills.

Lithium was mined in the Keystone area until the 1950s. It takes several hundred pounds of lithium to make the battery in one electric vehicle. There are efforts to recycle lithium and to produce batteries using safer and less-damaging materials. But right now, lithium is what is used.

Black Hills rock.

While we agree that renewable energy is key to fighting climate change, we do not think that the Black Hills are a good location for new large-scale mines. And mining is a major contributor to carbon emissions and climate change. The Black Hills are ecologically, culturally, and historically unique and are the treaty homelands of the Lakota people. The current local economy, which is based on agriculture, tourism, and outdoor recreation, is far more prosperous than a mining-based economy and creates far less damage to the area’s land, wildlife, and water.

Read more on Biden’s order to increase mining to power electric vehicles raises contamination concerns.

The mission of the Black Hills Clean Water Alliance, founded in 2009, is to stop current and prevent future radioactive and destructive mining in the Black Hills region to protect our valuable resources – especially our water – for future generations.