We’d better hope those rare-earth elements up in North Dakota didn’t also get sprinkled into the Black Hills; otherwise, we might have a hard time convincing folks to accept the mining ban that the Forest Service is proposing for the Pactola Reservoir and part of the Rapid Creek watershed, on which Rapid City and Ellsworth Air Force Base depend for drinking water. Locals voiced their opinions on digging fewer holes in the Hills at a public hearing Wednesday in Rapid City:
The ban would cover about 32 square miles encompassing the Pactola Reservoir and areas of public land upstream that drain into the reservoir via Rapid Creek.
Many speakers said they want the boundaries of the proposed ban expanded to cover more of the Rapid Creek watershed, plus additional watersheds or even the entire Black Hills National Forest.
Some of the speakers expressed concerns about the potential impact of mining on water availability and quality. One of those speakers was Rapid City resident Jay Davis.
“This is our drinking water. This is our lifeline. Water is life,” Davis said.
Native Americans from several South Dakota-based tribes shared similar concerns. They also spoke about the potential impact of mining on areas of cultural significance in the Black Hills – a region that figures prominently in Native American history and spirituality.
Doug Crow Ghost spoke on behalf of the Great Plains Tribal Water Alliance.
“The Forest Service should impose a moratorium on all mining in the Black Hills,” Crow Ghost said.
A few speakers defended exploration and mining. Larry Mann, who has worked as a lobbyist for mining companies, said all future mining-related activity in the affected area should not be prohibited based on concerns about a current exploratory drilling proposal. He said exploratory drilling rarely locates economically viable deposits, and the number of drilling projects that result in mines is minimal.
“Why are we setting our hair on fire over something that the science even says is unlikely to occur?” Mann said [Seth Tupper, “Public Tells Forest Service to Expand Proposed Mining Ban in Portion of Black Hills,” South Dakota Searchlight, 20223.04.26].
The Forest Service is taking public comment on the withdrawal of this public land from mining through June 20. You can comment online via https://cara.fs2c.usda.gov/Public/CommentInput?project=NP-3479 or on paper to Bryan Karchut, Black Hills National Forest, 1019 N. 5th Street, Custer, SD 57730.