A company that is exploring for gold in the Black Hills has re-applied for a temporary permit to draw water from Rapid Creek.
Mineral Mountain Resources submitted an application Aug. 22 to the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
On Sept. 4, Jeanne Goodman, chief engineer of the DENR’s Water Rights Program, notified the company that she was deferring consideration of the application to the state Water Management Board, a seven-member panel appointed by the governor.
The board will consider the application during a meeting at 11 a.m. Central time on Thursday, Oct. 4, at the Floyd Matthew Training Center in the Joe Foss Building at Pierre.
The application seeks permission to withdraw up to 1.8 million gallons from Rapid Creek through the end of this year. The planned pump rate during drilling operations is approximately 200 gallons per minute, and the planned daily withdrawal is 5,000 to 10,000 gallons. The pumping station would be located about a half-mile east of Rochford.
The company needs water to lubricate the bit of a drill rig, which is being used to cut hundreds of feet into rocky terrain for core samples.
Mineral Mountain had a temporary permit to withdraw water from Rapid Creek last year when the Canadian company began drilling near Rochford in the north-central Black Hills.
That permit expired May 1, after the company had drilled and plugged three holes and the project had sparked increasingly vocal opposition from people including landowners near the drill sites, environmentalists, Native Americans and others critical of gold mining in the Black Hills.
Mineral Mountain applied in April to renew its temporary water permit, but the DENR, citing input from opponents, deferred consideration of the application to the Water Management Board. Mineral Mountain subsequently withdrew that application and temporarily suspended drilling.
In June, Mineral Mountain resumed drilling with water purchased from the city of Lead and trucked it to the drilling sites near Rochford.
In July, Mineral Mountain attempted to claim ownership of a water right for Rapid Creek that dated to 1898 and was associated with the historical Standby Mine. The DENR found no evidence of the water right and rejected the claim.
Nine holes have been drilled so far — three shy of the 12 holes that Mineral Mountain has said it plans to drill on privately owned land as part of the current exploratory project. The drill sites are on ruggedly forested terrain just southeast of Rochford.
Mineral Mountain has authorization from the DENR to drill up to 120 holes at the 10 drill sites in the project area, and the company has a pending request for additional drilling sites on land managed by the U.S. Forest Service. After drilling, the holes are plugged with bentonite.
If Mineral Mountain's exploratory project turns into a mine, it would join a Black Hills gold-mining history that dates to the 1870s. Currently, the only active, large-scale gold mine in the area is the Wharf Mine, which is near Terry Peak and yielded 95,372 ounces of gold last year.
Major past mines include the Homestake Mine at Lead, parts of which are now an underground science laboratory, and the Gilt Edge Mine southeast of Lead, where a cleanup supervised by the Environmental Protection Agency has been ongoing since 2000.