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Executives of a Canadian company say that if they find sufficient amounts of gold near Rochford, a mine would take perhaps a decade to open and would not be an open cut like the former Homestake Mine near Lead.

Sixteen miles south of the Homestake site, Mineral Mountain Resources is drilling deep into solid rock near Rochford in the north-central Black Hills. The company hopes to find iron-hosted gold formations like those that yielded 40 million ounces of gold at Homestake from 1876 to 2001.

Executive Chairman T. Barry Coughlan and President and CEO Nelson Baker spoke Monday with the Rapid City Journal by phone about their plans for the Rochford area.

“Our drilling program this year will not be able to establish whether we’ve got a deposit or not,” Baker said. “It will only be an indication of whether we should continue exploring.”

Baker said Mineral Mountain believes the Rochford area is under-explored despite being mined in the past. For example, he said, Mineral Mountain is the first exploration company to conduct a helicopter survey of the area with magnetic equipment to gauge the presence of heavy minerals.

“We’ve identified an opportunity, and we’re going to systematically explore it using modern technology,” Baker said. “It’s a crapshoot. We don’t know whether there’s an economic deposit there or not.”

If exploration does indicate the presence of a sufficient amount of recoverable gold, it would likely take eight to 12 years to open a mine, Baker said. A mine could be opened by Mineral Mountain, or the company could sell its exploration data to another company.

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The nature of the potential gold deposit near Rochford would not lend itself to open-pit mining, Baker said. He predicted that if a mine is ever opened near Rochford, it will consist of a headframe and underground workings such as tunnels and shafts.

“It’s not an open-pit type of deposit,” Baker said. “It’s certainly an underground model.”

Company documents have expressed a hope of finding “another Homestake,” but Baker said that phrase could be misconstrued.

“When we say we’re looking for a Homestake-style deposit, we don’t mean Homestake-size,” Baker said. “We mean a type of deposit that has the same identical geology and mineralization.”

Coughlan said the company is committed to environmentally responsible practices and hopes to contribute to the Black Hills economy. Publicly available company documents say Mineral Mountain had spent $3.14 million through December on the Rochford project for property-related payments, claim-staking and exploration.

“We’re very, very happy where we are,” Coughlan said. “We have the potential to find something that is very elusive here in a wonderful corner of the world.”

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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."