The remnants of the Homestake Mine in Lead, South Dakota. Gold mining there in the late 1800s led to the taking of the Black Hills from the Sioux Nation. Photo: Rachel Harris

Native Sun News Today: Canadian company seeks gold mine in sacred Black Hills

Gold fever returns to Black Hills

Residents go to bat to protect land, water
By Talli Nauman
Native Sun News Today
Health & Environment Editor

ROCHFORD – Gold fever is back in the Black Hills. A Canadian company is telling investors they can strike it rich with the likes of “another Homestake Mine”, and the U.S. government is asking for public comment on admitting prospectors.

Vancouver, British Columbia-based Mineral Mountain Resources Ltd. proposes to conduct diamond drilling exploration of mining claims it says it has acquired on some 7,500 acres of private land, as well as on publicly-administered properties. Comments are due in to the U.S. Forest Service by October 27 on the Rochford Gold Project.

The company stresses the groundbreaking nature of the endeavor, which would commence at the historic Standby and Cochrane mines southeast of Rochford and northwest of the Lakota spiritual center of Pe’ Sla.

The project “represents the first time in the history of the Rochford District that one company controls the majority of the district and the first time virtually all of the … historical drilling and surface exploration data has been assembled in modern 3D and GIS formats, to facilitate district-scale interpretation and drill targeting,” it says in its literature.

It likens the prospects for the district to those of the lucrative Homestake Mine, located 15 miles to the north in Lead. Homestake produced more than 40 million Troy ounces of gold during its 125 years of continuous operation ending in 2001.

The oldest, largest and deepest mine in the Western Hemisphere until then, Homestake made its fortune and fame from an 1876 claim that was part of the gold rush ensuing the illegal taking of the Black Hills from the Great Sioux Nation, a violation of the 1868 Ft. Laramie Treaty.

Due to all the years of gold mining since then, Mineral Mountain Resources Ltd. says it considers the Black Hills ripe for its 10-year mining proposal.

It terms the project “de-risked” because the “Black Hills is pro-mining.” Evidence it presents includes Coeur Mining Inc.’s open-pit and heap-leach operations at nearby Wharf Mine, South Dakota’s only working gold mine.

Mineral Mountain Resources Ltd. notes the project advantages of a skilled workforce, excellent infrastructure, and year-round access, as well as “supportive” state and federal permitting. The company estimates a 2017 Rochford Project exploration budget of nearly $3.8 million.

It expects “robust results” from mining even by its most conservative calculations, predicting a layout of less than $920 and a payback of $1,300 per Troy ounce.

Some local groups are banding together to contest the project, however. They consider it risky and counter to Lakota culture.

The Homestake Mine polluted Whitewood Creek, and Brohm Mining Co.’s nearby Gilt Edge Mine polluted Strawberry Creek and Bear Butte Creek, with both gold mines leaving taxpayers to foot the bill for multi-million-dollar Superfund toxic cleanup sites, the groups point out.

“We don’t want to see another gold mining tragedy in the Black Hills, and that’s what we would probably get if this project goes forward,” said Lilias Jarding, Ph.D., founder of Clean Water Alliance.

The Rapid City-based organization, together with the Black Hills Chapter of the statewide Dakota Rural Action and another group, Save Rochford and Rapid Creek, came out with a statement against the gold exploration drilling on October 19.

“The Black Hills’ main economic drivers are agriculture and tourism. The area is home to one of the most sacred Lakota sites. A gold mine doesn’t fit there,” Jarding said.

Some of the drilling would take place in the area of Reynolds Prairie, a high mountain meadowland known in Lakota as Pe’ Sla, or the “Heart of Everything” central to the Oceti Sakowin traditional star knowledge and understanding of the universe.

Carol Hayse, a member of Save Rochford and Rapid Creek, called the project “foolhardy” and lacking assessment of “possible impacts on nearby land sacred to Native Americans.”

The U.S. Forest Service asks that interested parties mail comments to “Mystic Ranger District, 8221 Mount Rushmore Road, Rapid City, SD 57702 or email them to with “Rochford Exploration Project” as the subject.

Comments can be written within the text of emails or attached. Comments submitted, including names and addresses of commenters, are public information. For details on this project, contact Gary Haag at (605) 673-9200 or Jessica Eggers at (605) 343-1567.

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