A Canadian company has purchased more land and mineral rights in the Keystone area for possible development into an underground gold mine, with initial exploration likely to begin in the next few weeks.
But workers will have to be careful, under state stipulations, not to disturb hibernating bats with the exploration work.
Mineral Mountain Resources, Ltd., of Vancouver, British Columbia, recently made two separate purchases of mine property totaling 234 acres in the Keystone area. With the purchase of the 44.3-acre Bismarck Mine and the 189.8-acre Bullion Mine, Mineral Mountain and its joint partner, Holy Terror Mining Company, now have more than 766 acres of property near Keystone.
The main parcel of 532 acres in mineral claims, including the historic Holy Terror Mine, was acquired by Mineral Mountain Resources last spring in a deal with Holy Terror Mining.
The partners are now waiting to begin exploration, pending approval from the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Pierre.
"We have already filed all permit applications for the land we plan to explore in the next 12 to 18 months," Mineral Mountain Resources spokesman Brad Baker said by email on Friday. "We hope to have approvals imminently."
Representatives of the DENR, the state Game, Fish & Parks Department and Mineral Mountain Resources met at the location of the project last week to review propose exploration sites. The state environmental specialists were checking for possible natural resource impacts, including damage to water resources.
Eric Holm, a DENR natural resources engineer in Pierre, said many of the drill sites will be at previously explored locations and existing trails will provide most of the access. There was no indication that the drilling activities would harm water resources, he said.
"It was a routine inspection. Nothing really jumped out at us," Holm said.
The state is imposing restrictions, however, on the exploration drilling when it is done around old mining excavations used by bats. Those restrictions would apply after Oct. 3 near the openings.
"It's about hibernating bats in the winter," Holm said.
But the DENR staff is preparing to approve the exploration work as soon as a reclamation bond is in place, said Mike Cepak of Pierre, a DENR engineering manager.
"We're very close to approving it. We're just waiting on that reclamation bond," Cepak said. "They could have a drill running in a few weeks."
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