Q: What is a “Mineral Withdrawal”?

  • A: A “withdrawal” is an action by the US Secretary of the Interior that limits mining activity in a specific area of public lands in order to maintain other public values, or for reserving the area for a particular public purpose. These values and purposes may include protecting scientific, scenic, historical, ecological, environmental, air, water, or archeological resources, or for other special purposes.
  • In this case, the US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) are proposing to withdraw an area around Pactola Reservoir and upper Rapid Creek, totaling 20,574 acres. This is about 10% of the upper Rapid Creek drainage. If the proposal is finalized by the Secretary of the Interior, the withdrawal will prevent new mining claims and exploration, and will limit mine development in that area.

Q: Why is a withdrawal desirable?

  • A: Mining on National Forest-controlled lands throughout the West is primarily governed by the 1872 Mining Law. This outdated law allows people – including foreign-owned corporations – to mine federal public lands without paying rents or royalties, and to shut the public out of these lands. Through this law, private corporations profit while often polluting water and permanently scarring the land.
  • One way to ensure that this doesn’t happen in the Pactola Reservoir area is to withdraw these lands from operation of the 1872 Mining Law – called a mineral withdrawal.

Q: What effect does a withdrawal have on other uses like recreation?

  • A: A mineral withdrawal removes a specific area from only one use – mining. A mineral withdrawal does not affect any other uses of the land. In fact, closing an area to mining benefits all other uses of that area, because mining cannot be the dominant use.

Q: What is the mineral withdrawal process?

  • A: The US Forest Service and BLM have proposed a 20-year, renewable mineral withdrawal. This is a proposal at this time – not a final decision. The proposal starts a two-year pause in new mining activities, called a “segregation period.” No new mining claims may be staked and mining activity may be approved only on pre-existing and already proven mining claims while the segregation is in effect.
  • The Forest Service and BLM will conduct studies to analyze the environmental effects of withdrawing the lands. The agencies will them publish a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) or Environmental Assessment (EA) presenting their information for public review and comment. Once the final EIS or EA is completed, it will provide the basis for the Secretary of the Interior’s final decision about whether to withdraw the lands from mining.

Q: What impact does the withdrawal proposal have on current mineral exploration in the Rapid Creek/Pactola Reservoir area?

  • A: The withdrawal proposal halts new mine development on federally-controlled National Forest lands on the 20,574 acres covered by the withdrawal proposal unless an existing mining claimant can demonstrate a pre-existing discovery of valuable minerals on their claim. It does not stop mineral exploration and development on privately-controlled lands.
  • The Jenny Gulch exploration drilling project proposed by F3 Gold has been put on hold and would likely be stopped for 20 years by a final decision in favor of a mineral withdrawal. Exploration and drilling in other areas of the Rapid Creek watershed would not be impacted by the Pactola Reservoir/Rapid Creek segregation period or mineral withdrawal, such as on other F3 Gold claims or on the Mineral Mountain Resources project.

Q: What impact does the withdrawal proposal have on Lakota treaty rights?

  • A: The proposal does not impact or change Lakota treaty rights. If it is approved, it helps preserve the land, cultural resources, and water that could be destroyed by exploration or mining projects in the impacted area for 20 years.

Q: Will there be an opportunity for members of the public to voice their opinion on the withdrawal?

  • A: Yes. The US Forest Service and BLM will hold their first public meeting on the withdrawal proposal on April 26, 2023, from 4:00 – 8:00 pm at the Best Western Ramkota Hotel in Rapid City. People will be able to write comments there.
  • The public can also write comments to the Forest Service and BLM by posting them at https://cara.fs2c.usda.gov/Public/CommentInput?project=NP-3479 by June 20, 2023.

There may be other opportunities to comment later in the process, but filing comments before June 20 is very important.

Written comments may also be submitted via USPS mail to: Bryan Karchut, Black Hills National Forest, 1019 N. 5th Street, Custer, SD 57730.

Comments sent by email will not be accepted.

This comment period will serve as the scoping period for the environmental analysis process.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Black Hills Clean Water Alliance http://www.bhcleanwateralliance.org
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