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.
Mineral Mountain has already drilled nine holes in the Black Hills to collect core samples and determine whether there’s enough recoverable gold for a mining operation. The company has permission to drill more than 100 others, the Rapid City Journal reported.
Mineral Mountain’s most recent permit application was met with opposition from residents, Native American tribal officials and the Izaak Walton League, an outdoor conservation group.
“How might you justify destroying this beauty, economic viability, and spiritual value for a mine that despoils everything in its path?” asked Nemo resident Carol Hayse.
Matthew Naasz, the company’s lawyer, countered that the permit doesn’t sanction mining.
“This is a temporary use for drilling purposes of a small amount of water that is clearly and obviously available,” he said.
A mining operation would need separate approval from state regulators, including a public review.
The Water Management Board partially based its decision on information provided by Mark Rath, an engineer with the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Rath said water releases have exceeded winter target levels for a reservoir on Rapid Creek downstream from the drilling site. He predicted larger-than-usual releases from the reservoir in the coming months.
“So there is sufficient water there to get us through the end of the year,” Rath said.
Mineral Mountain also has submitted plans to the U.S. Forest Service for additional exploratory drilling on public land sites in the Black Hills National Forest. The plans are under review.
Information from: Rapid City Journal, http://www.rapidcityjournal.com
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