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Kevin Leonard, project manager for Mineral Mountain Resources, walks toward a drilling rig in the Black Hills near Rochford, where Mineral Mountain is conducting exploratory drilling for gold.

A judge has dismissed a legal challenge to an exploratory gold-drilling project near Rochford in the Black Hills.

Three members of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe — A. Gay Kingman, Steven Emery and Robin Zephier — filed their court appeal in February after drilling had begun at the project site.

The appeal alleged that the exploration notice of intent filed by Mineral Mountain Resources (SD) Inc., a corporation registered in South Dakota, was invalid because it was originally filed under the name of the corporation’s Canadian parent company before being transferred. The appeal cited a state law prohibiting foreign corporations from transacting business in South Dakota without a certificate of authority from the Office of the Secretary of State.

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On July 25, Circuit Court Judge Robert Mandel dismissed the appeal. His written decision said there is no right granted by state law to file a court appeal against the administrative decision that was made by the state Board of Minerals and Environment to approve the transfer of the exploration notice of intent.

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The plaintiffs may appeal Mandel’s decision to the state Supreme Court. The deadline for an appeal is Aug. 24.

Meanwhile, according to the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources, at least seven holes have been drilled at the project site since drilling began in February. Currently, only exploratory drilling is authorized at the site. A separate mining permit would be needed before any mining could begin.

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Contact Seth Tupper at seth.tupper@rapidcityjournal.com

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Enterprise Reporter

Enterprise reporter for the Rapid City Journal and author of "Calvin Coolidge in the Black Hills."