RAPID CITY—On Monday morning the US Forest Service green-lit a project for exploratory gold drilling near Pactola Reservoir, close to Jenny Gulch. The project, designed to drill a series of holes and take core samples, is a precursor event to test for ores, suitable for mining prospects in a given area.
When the project was first called for, it mentioned drilling in up to 47 separate locations, the placement of core samples taken, then the core holes would be plugged and covered. No wide-spread mining or digging would take place at this time, but just the idea has stirred environmentalists around western South Dakota. Rapid City’s own council, in February 2020. voted to approve a resolution opposing gold-exploration drilling in the Rapid Creek watershed near Pactola.
The Forest Service has now completed its final environmental assessment and issued the draft decision that would allow the drilling to move forward, but with numerous restrictions to protect cultural sites, water and other natural resources. Based off of what they were shown, the Forest Service felt there was a “Finding of No Significant Impact.” Off their evaluations, there is no mining, milling or production of ore proposed for this operation, and the project is expected to last approximately one year, from start to reclamation.
The draft, as it stands is subject to a 45-day objection period and the Forest Service would consider any objections before issuing a final decision. F3 Gold’s Vice President Brian Lentz in a statement said “After an exhaustive, multi-year process atypical for a small-scale exploration drilling project, we are pleased that we are finally getting our permit.”
As it is, the F3 Gold decision, allowed the company to drill 47 pads, on an area over three acres near Jenny Gulch, located north of Pactola Reservoir, and just east of Silver City, in the Black Hills. The Forest Service did mention that F3 Gold has a statutory right under the General Mining Act of 1872 to explore mineral claim areas for exploration purposes.
“While the USFS cannot deny the company its right to explore for gold on their claim, the USFS can impose limitations which are reasonable and necessary to protect NFS lands and resources,” said Jeff Tomac, Black Hills Nations Forest Supervisor.
Lilias Jarding of the Black Hills Clean Water Alliance, said that exploratory drilling could eventually lead to a gold mine. Jardins said a mine could pollute the Pactola Reservoir, which is also a popular recreational destination and is also as a storage reservoir for water systems, which include Rapid City.
The resolution from the City of Rapid City, states the city opposes gold exploration and potential gold mining in the Rapid Creek watershed, “due to the potential risk to the Rapid Creek watershed, the City’s water supply and the local economy.”
Jarding brought the original resolution to the City Council.
The 45-day objection period started with the publication of the legal notice that was posted on Friday. Objections will only be accepted from those that previously submitted specific written comments during the public comment periods, and the objection period will end on August 22. The Forest Service, said objections raised during this period will be reviewed and resolved before a final decision is made.
Gold, to that effect has been mined in the Black Hills since the 1870’s, with Homestake near Lead at one time the largest and deepest mine in North America before it closed in 2002. Gold and silver are still mined at the Coeur Wharf mine near Lead, using open-pit mining techniques, and heap-leaching with a cyanide solution. Another company, called Dakota Territory Resource is looking to begin their own drilling in the Black Hills, owns eight mineral properties, and has a combined ownership of surface lease, on more than 19,000 acres in the Black Hills. The said properties, are located in the Homestake District in the Northern Hills area.
(Contact Joe Budd at Sales2@nativesunnews.today)