A state board has awarded a water permit to a company looking for gold in the Black Hills.
Mineral Mountain Resources has already drilled 49 holes for core samples. Many of those were near Keystone. The company has since moved its search north to the Rochford area.
The drills need water for lubrication. The company has bought water from the city of Lead, and trucked it in 3,000-gallon tanks.
Now the company plans to draw as much as 10 gallons per minute from a well near the drill sites.
Matt Naasz is a local lawyer representing Mineral Mountain, which is based in Canada. Naasz testified at a hearing Wednesday in Pierre.
“Obviously, if there’s going to be some large-scale mining operation in this area of the Black Hills someday, more than 10 gallons of water per minute will need to be utilized,” Naasz said. “And should that occur, Mineral Mountain Resources, or whomever is to do the mining, will be back before this board asking for a permit to use water for that purpose.”
Several people testified against the water permit. One was Lilias Jarding, of Rapid City.
“There’s only one reason to explore for gold, and that is to find it and mine it,” Jarding said. “That’s the reason people do this. Mining has a history, a long history, of contaminating the water in the Black Hills.”
The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources signed off on the permit. The department said there’s sufficient water in the aquifer, and the permit won’t impair other water rights in the area.
The final call rested with a citizen panel, the state Water Management Board. It unanimously approved the permit.
Mineral Mountain is one of several companies exploring for gold in the Black Hills. The region has been mined for gold since the 1870s, but there’s currently only one active, large-scale gold mine in the area. That's the Wharf Mine near Terry Peak.
-Contact reporter Seth Tupper by email.