As captain on a pontoon boat at a Pactola Reservoir event to raise awareness during summer 2019, Dakota Rural Action Black Hills Chapter President Rick Bell was among speakers at a Rapid City Common Council hearing February 3, 2020, urging passage of a resolution to prevent pollution of water from exploration and mining. Photo by Talli Nauman / Native Sun News Today
RAPID CITY – A Lakota warning helped prompt the city council here to pass a resolution against large-scale upstream gold prospecting just two days before the Black Hills National Forest closed its comment period on the F3 Jenny Gulch Exploration Drilling Project.
“First of all, let me remind you of the sacredness of the Black Hills,” Oglala Lakota tribal member Dennis Yellow Thunder told the Rapid City Common Council during a February 3 hearing on the resolution submitted by the Planning and Zoning Committee at the urging of grassroots organizations.
“Remember what happened the last time gold was discovered. It was the end of our way of life,” he said in reference to the 1874 Black Hills gold rush that resulted in theft of the Black Hills from the Great Sioux Nation in constitutional violation of the treaties of Ft. Laramie, as determined by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The subsequent homesteading and jurisdictional framework imposed on the area abridged Oceti Sakowin (Seven Council Fires) freedom to hunt, fish and worship, noted Yellow Thunder, who is a Black Hills National Forest Advisory Board member.
“This time, should this proposed exploratory drilling activity go on, it will be the end of your way of life,” he warned. “You draw a lot of tourism dollars from these Black Hills. It will be the end of your way of life when it dries up because no one wants to fish or swim or kayak or hunt in these hills because of the contamination that will occur,” he said.
“So, think really hard about that and vote in support of this resolution,” he concluded.
The resolution refers not only to the Jenny Gulch proposal by Minneapolis-based F3 Gold near Silver City but also to another exploration project By Canadian Mineral Mountain Resources Ltd. already underway on a huge patch of claims adjacent to the tribal trust land of Pe’ Sla further upstream near Rochford. Both are in the Rapid Creek (Mniluzahan Wakpa) watershed, which forms Pactola Lake, the source of drinking water for Rapid City, Box Elder and Ellsworth Air Force Base.
It states: “WHEREAS, Mineral Mountain Resources Ltd. and F3 Gold LLC have submitted applications to the U.S. Forest Service, Mystic District to explore for gold in the Rapid Creek watershed; and WHEREAS, Mineral Mountain Resources Ltd. is drilling for gold in the area near Rochford, S.D., and Pe’ Sla; and WHEREAS, gold exploration could lead to gold mining, which involves the use of cyanide and other toxins and often leads to permanent acid mine drainage, which could go into Rapid Creek;
“And WHEREAS, the Rapid Creek watershed and its connected aquifers are the sources for Rapid City’s water supply; and WHEREAS, the Rapid Creek watershed, including Pactola Reservoir, is a major recreation and tourism area, supporting Rapid City’s economy; and WHEREAS, maintaining the quality and quantity of the water supply is of utmost importance to the city and to Ellsworth Air Force Base;
“And WHEREAS, comments on the F3 Gold LLC project are due to the U.S. Forest Service, Mystic District, by Feb. 5, 2020; and WHEREAS, the Common Council of the City of Rapid City believes that gold exploration in the Rapid Creek watershed poses an unacceptable risk to the source of Rapid City’s drinking water.
“NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, by the City of Rapid City that due to the potential risk to the Rapid Creek watershed, the City’s water supply, and the local economy, the city expresses opposition to gold exploration and potential gold mining in the Rapid Creek watershed.”
The council members voted 6-4 in favor.
“Thanks to all who made this possible, especially the City Council members who voted for the resolution — Laura Armstrong, Darla Drew, Ritchie Nordstrom, Lisa Modrick, Chad Lewis, and Bill Evans!” said the grassroots Black Hills Clean Water Alliance. “People are becoming more aware and, when they’re aware, they don’t want to be the target of the gold industry.”