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Gov. Noem plans to speak with displaced Black Hawk families
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Gov. Noem plans to speak with displaced Black Hawk families

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Gov. Kristi Noem says she plans to host a conference call with Black Hawk families who were displaced after a sinkhole exposed that their homes were built over a gypsum mine.

“They’ve got a lot of questions and information, and I wanted to make sure we opened the lines of communication and could visit with them,” Noem said at the beginning of her Tuesday news conference. 

“There’s been a lot of questions to me and my office about what is gong on there with the homes and the families that are affected by the mine that is underneath that neighborhood,” Noem said. There’s also questions about “what role the state has in the situation.”

Noem did not say when she would host the conference call but said it will be open to all residents who have been “directly impacted” by the situation, and that she will share how the conversation went with the media.

The mine, which is 25 to 30 feet below the surface, was exposed after a large sinkhole opened April 27 on East Daisy Drive in the Hideaway Hills community of Black Hawk. Cavers explored and mapped the mine, and public safety officials eventually decided that 15 families needed to evacuate.

The more than 40 evacuees will likely never be able to return to their homes. Public safety officials at first surrounded the sinkhole with netting but now a larger area is blocked off with chain-link fence and no trespassing signs.

Meade County is applying to a FEMA grant that if approved, would pay families 75% of their home value before the sinkhole emerged. The other 25% would be pooled together to pay for the cost of demolishing the homes, capping off utilities and reclaiming the area as a green space.

The county Planning Board approved the Hideaway Hills development after being told part of it would be built over a mine and that soil boring may be needed to determine if dangerous cavities exist, according to a document packet from the developer. The 2000 document was also addressed to county commissioners and planning staff.

State’s role

It’s unclear how much state agencies and leaders knew about the mine and development at the time.

A private company opened the mine in 1910 and the South Dakota Cement Plant — now a private cement plant in Rapid City — mined the area in the 1980s, according to the 2000 document.

Larry Fuss told the Journal he bought the land that became Hideaway Hills from the state in 1994 or 1995 and believes the government reclaimed the area since it looked like a grassy pasture.

The Journal has not yet confirmed whether the state reclaimed the mine. 

The Department of Environmental and Natural Resources (DENR) approved the water and sewer systems, according to the 2000 document.

The Planning Board said the Department of Transportation needed to approve an easement, according to July 2000 meeting minutes. It said in an August 2002 meeting that the DENR needed to approve the subdivision. And the developer told the board that the DOT approved a railroad crossing, according to August 2003 minutes.

It’s unclear if these various approval processes involved looking into whether there was a mine under the development and if so, if it was safe to build on top of it. ​

After the mine was exposed the DOT hired a Rapid City-based contractor to study the safety of Interstate 90 and the exit near Hideaway Hills.

— Contact Arielle Zionts at arielle.zionts@rapidcityjournal.com

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