Disputes over gold mining might have been something people saw 100 years ago, but not in the 21st century.
Mineral Mountain Resources, a Canadian company, is seeking to create another Homestake Mine in Rochford. The Homestake Mine was a deep underground gold mine located in Lead.
The company has already secured nearly 5,500 acres of public and private land around Castle Creek and Castle Peak.
Permission is being sought from the Forest Service to conduct an additional 10,000 meters of exploratory drilling. Twenty-one drill sites are planned to be on national forest land. Once the holes are drilled they are required to be filled with concrete or bentonite.
One of the concerns is the equipment is going to tear up the roads that are usually closed. New “overland routes” over public land would also be created.
John Hopkins, who lives on the road equipment would go through, said the company will use up to 1.8 million gallons of water from Rapid Creek.
“In my opinion, everyone from here downstream should be concerned about that,” Hopkins said.
The goal of the company is to take 3,000 tons of ore out of the mine every day.
“If they don’t find gold then they are going to go off and leave it,” Hopkins said.
Leaving the property owners with damaged roads, a disturbed forest and possibly contaminating the water.
If gold is found, there is going to be a big crater where a hill is now.
In August, the Forest Service sent a letter to five people, four who live on S. Rochford Road about Mineral Mountain Resources’ plan.
At that point, Hopkins and the other residents had 30 days to respond to the letter. They asked for an extension because they knew that people didn’t want gold mining to take place.
On Oct. 7, a meeting of 35-40 people took place. Hopkins said they don’t understand why the land is going to be used for commercial development.
The General Mining Law of 1872 concedes the land to be used for exploratory uses.
Hopkins’ contention is that the forest should be for public use and recreation.
According to Hopkins, the Forest Service has said that since there is not as much water used and the mining will take place in a short period of time an environmental impact study is not needed.
According to the Rapid City Journal, it will take months for the Forest Service to fully analyze Mineral Mountain’s proposed plan of operations and the written comments submitted by the public.
They could still decide to go through with an environmental impact study. This could add months of time before anything begins and require more money from Mineral Mountain Resources.
The group Hopkins is a part of has talked to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Hopkins said the Forest Service has the authority to impose restrictions in the forest.
“That is what we are asking them to do,” Hopkins said.
If mining does happen, Hopkins said the Forest Service should restrict their access and heavily monitor what they do.
In a presentation by some of the area residents of the proposed mining site, it was stated it would be bad for landowners, bad for residents of Rapid City who depend on water from Rapid and Castle creeks and bad for anyone who wants to preserve the Black Hills.
When they are drilling, the company could also hit an aquifer.
Hopkins said that covering drill sites might not even happen. Mineral Resources is a nonprofit but if they get gold they would be making a profit.
A $20,000 bond is required by the state to mine in that location.
Hopkins said that won’t cover the cost of the damage of the holes and what will be done to the roads.
A bill was recently introduced by five senators which would reform the General Mining Law of 1872. The current law allows companies to extract minerals with little liability. The Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act would provide rules for exploratory and mining permits.
Hopkins said it is not a cure-all but better than the 1872 law.
One of the changes with the law is that it establishes a Reclamation Fund for land and water resources adversely affected by past hardrock mining activities.
Residents have until Oct. 27 to get comments to the Forest Service. The Forest Service will review all public comments and consider the substance of the concerns, evaluate whether they trigger a change in the analysis and draft a response to each comment.
As of Oct. 12, the residents were trying to develop a plan on how to proceed.
“We need to get specific on how to get people to support the new act,” Hopkins said.
Hopkins would like people to write to their senators to support the Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act.