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Brian Lentz, left, and Rob Bergmann, both of F3 Gold, respond to a question in April during a meeting with about 75 people in Silver City, where F3 Gold hopes to conduct an exploratory drilling project.

A Minnesota-based exploratory drilling company will pay another Minnesota company to conduct an environmental assessment of a proposed drilling project near Silver City, according to a written agreement with the Forest Service that reveals several details of the project.

F3 Gold, of Minneapolis, and the Black Hills National Forest finalized a memorandum of understanding this week. The agreement requires F3 Gold to select and pay a consultant to conduct an environmental assessment of F3 Gold's proposed exploratory drilling project near Silver City in the central region of the Black Hills, about 20 miles west of Rapid City. The drilling project will remove core samples to aid in the search for a deep deposit of gold that could ultimately be mined.

An appendix to the agreement says F3 Gold has selected Barr Engineering, of Minneapolis, as the consultant to conduct the environmental assessment.

Another appendix contains F3 Gold's proposed plan of operations. The plan says the company wants to construct 42 drill sites on national forest land in the Jenny Gulch area near Pactola Reservoir. The drill pads would measure approximately 2,500 square feet.

Two additional areas of about a quarter-acre apiece would be used as staging areas. The project's total disturbance would be 3.8 acres. The proposed duration of the project is one year.

The main access to drilling sites from the north would be Forest Service Road 261 (Jenny Gulch Road) via County Highway 237 (Rochford Road). The primary access from the south would be FSR 671 (Sunnyside Gulch Road) or FSR 261 (Jenny Gulch Road) via Silver City Road.

Drilling would occur around the clock with two crews working 12-hour shifts. Up to four drill rigs would operate across the exploration area at one time.

Drill cuttings and the water used to flush out the cuttings would be collected in storage tanks, where the cuttings would settle out and the water would be recycled. The cuttings would be dispersed across the drilling area and covered with topsoil or other organic material.

Between 5,000 and 10,000 gallons of water per day would be used to cool and lubricate the diamond drill bits. The water would be trucked in from a municipal or industrial source and held in a 20,000-gallon storage tank.

Equipment used during the drilling project would include the drilling rigs, a water truck, 4x4 utility terrain vehicles, 4x4 pickup trucks, skid-steer loaders, graders and backhoes.

F3 Gold is one of several companies proposing exploratory drilling or actively drilling to find gold in the Black Hills. Mineral Mountain Resources, of Canada, said last month that it was resuming a drilling project it began with nine holes last year in the Rochford area; Dakota Territory Resource Corporation, of Reno, Nevada, is considering drilling in several northern Black Hills locations; and Wharf Resources hopes to extend the life of its existing mine near Lead by drilling for more gold around the site of the nearby Richmond Hill Mine. 

Gold mining has been a continuous industry in the Black Hills since the 1870s, but the Wharf Mine, which produced 76,840 ounces of gold and 50,575 ounces of silver last year, is the only large-scale gold mine currently operating in the region.

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Contact Seth Tupper at seth.tupper@rapidcityjournal.com

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