Approximately 90 people gathered Thursday night at the Black Hills National Forest Mystic Ranger District office in Rapid City to learn more about a proposed exploratory gold drilling project north of Silver City.
The proposal calls for Minnesota-based F3 Gold, LLC to drill up to 42 sites for core samples in the rocky and forested area near Pactola Reservoir in the central Black Hills. Drill holes would range from 500 to 6,000 feet in depth, depending on the results of each hole.
Andrew Johnson, the acting forest supervisor for the Black Hills National Forest, said the review of the application for the proposed site, called the Jenny Gulch Exploration Drilling project, is in the beginning phases.
"There will be a full discussion of a timeline and also concurrent with this process will be our government-to-government consultation with our tribal partners as we go through this process," Johnson said.
F3 Gold hired Barr Engineering as the consultant to conduct the environmental assessment for the project. The firm will work at the direction of the National Forest Service.
At Thursday's meeting, representatives from F3 Gold were not in attendance. Shanna Braun, project manager for Barr Engineering presented the preliminary plan to the group.
Braun said the exploratory core drilling project is just that, at this point.
"No mining, milling or processing is proposed and any water that is used for the drilling would be sources from approved municipal or industrial sources," she said. "No water would be used from Rapid Creek or other local surface waters."
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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.
However, Braun said approximately 4,700 feet of new road or trail construction may be necessary for the operation.
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.
Braun said the sound disturbance within a 700-foot radius of the operation would be limited to the equivalent to a household refrigerator.
Those in attendance voiced several concerns over the potential damage to the national forest and pollution to Rapid Creek and Pactola Reservoir.
"That's what the environmental assessment is meant to do," Braun said. "Identify any of those concerns and provide solutions to those concerns, including relocation of drilling sites. We have already moved one, and as we study it more in depth with your concerns, we will address that as well."
The public comment period for the project ends on Feb. 5. Braun said the environmental assessment is expected to be distributed in late 2020.