Seth Tupper / SDPB

Lawrence County commissioners unanimously rejected a permit Tuesday for a gold mine near the rim of Spearfish Canyon.

Commissioner Brandon Flanagan said there are too many unknowns with the project, and although he supports mining, he could not approve the application.

“Normally, we get conditional-use permits and a lot of the detail is in there, as they’re supposed to be," Flanagan said. "In this one it’s a lot of just, ‘Permit what we’ve already got, and we’ll figure out the rest as we go.’ I’ve got a problem with that on a lot of levels.”

Seth Tupper / SDPB

Soaring gold prices are fueling a rush for the next big discovery in the Black Hills, but gold miners and prospectors are encountering opposition.

One reason for the surging prices is the down economy. Some people see gold as a safe investment, so they scramble to buy it in times of economic uncertainty. That sends the price higher.

In August, the price hit $2,000 an ounce for the first time ever.

That’s motivated some investors to do more than just buy gold. Some are also investing in the search for places to mine it.

Seth Tupper / SDPB

A county board is recommending denial of a permit to mine for gold near Spearfish Canyon.

The company applying for the conditional-use permit is VMC LLC. The Deadwood Standard mine site is on a plateau above Spearfish Canyon, just back from the eastern rim near Savoy.

The company wants to blast and dig 14 pits, each ranging from a half-acre to 5 acres across, and as deep as 70 feet. The company would mine sequentially, backfilling and reclaiming one pit while mining the next.

South Dakota Department of Environment & Natural Resources

The owner of the only active, large-scale gold mine in South Dakota has to post millions more in bond money.

The Wharf Mine is near Lead, in the northern Black Hills. Coeur Mining is the Chicago-based company that runs the mine.

South Dakota requires Coeur to post bonds. That's in case the company ever goes bankrupt. If that happens, the state could use the bond money to clean up the mine.

The amount of the bonds is $64 million. But the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources said it's reviewed the amount, and it’s too low.

Dan Austin / Paha Sapa Grotto

When Shaun and Courtney Erk bought their house in Black Hawk four years ago, they went through the usual steps, like a home inspection.  

“You know, there was nothing as far as a foundation issue.” Courtney said. “We had the radon test done. We had everything done you’re supposed to do.” 

Mineral Mountain Resources

A Black Hills group that advocates for clean water is suing the Forest Service

The Black Hills Clean Water Alliance wants information on exploratory gold drilling. The alliance filed a Freedom of Information Act request two years ago in 2018.  

A proposal to tax bentonite and limestone died a quick death Wednesday in the South Dakota Legislature; meanwhile, other states are making millions from those very taxes. 

Bills Propose Solutions For Orphaned Gas Wells

Jan 23, 2020
South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources

Landowners in northwest South Dakota have been stuck with orphaned natural-gas wells on their property for several years, but they might get help this winter from the Legislature.  

The trouble dates to 2006, when a Texas company called Spyglass Cedar Creek drilled 40 natural gas wells near Buffalo. By 2012, the company was in trouble. Gas prices went down, a lender went bankrupt, and a business partner was indicted for tax fraud. 

Nuclear Regulatory Commission

A Native American tribe in South Dakota has filed an appeal that it hopes will force a scientific survey of artifacts, burials and other cultural resources that could be disturbed by a uranium mine. 

Arts & Lifestyle: Aug 17 - 23

Aug 23, 2019

This week renowned fiddlers Owen DeJong, Tom Schaefer, and Kenny Putnam came togerher for a rare joint appearance; Fiddles and Friends stopped by the Rapid City studio. You’ll hear about one of the most dangerous jobs in one of the most dangerous fields. A conversation about the life of one hall of fame inductee. And poetry from studio 47. 

Dakota Midday: Images of the Past

Oct 24, 2016

Wayne Pananen of Historical Footprints Inc. discusses the Lead subsidence and how buildings had to be located in the city during the 1920's and 30's because of miscalculations in mine engineering. Click here for more on this week's Images of the Past feature.

Black Hills State University's Dr. David Wolff recently retired in order to spend  more time with his research. Today he joins Dakota Midday to talk about violence and death on the Black Hills mining frontier. From stagecoach robberies to vigilante justice, Wolff separates the pulp fiction from the fact as he talks with Dakota Midday host Lori Walsh.

Residents On Road To Rushmore Decry Quarry Expansion Plan

Apr 4, 2016

UPDATE:  Pennington County commissioners rejected the proposed expansion of this limestone quarry.
Attorney Tom Brady says the company is weighing its options.

Original story:

The proposed expansion of a rock quarry on a main road to Mount Rushmore has inflamed a dispute between the quarry operator and some local residents and business owners. The Pennington County Commission is holding a meeting on Tuesday the 5th to consider zoning of the quarry and a possible expansion. 

Northern Hills Mine Put On Hold

Jan 22, 2016
Charles Michael Ray

A proposed rare earth mine in the Bear Lodge Mountains of Wyoming is on hold.   

The Bear Lodge sit just north of the Black Hills near the state line.  The mining company Rare Element Resources is backing the project.  Mine officials say a deposit in the area contains a high volume of minerals needed in the production of batteries and computer components.

Plan To Protect Rare Black Hills Plants And Research Areas

Oct 20, 2015
Chelsea Monks / Forest Service

The Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management are planning to set aside a few natural and botanical areas in the Black Hills.   

The areas hold a scientific value and contain rare plants that grow in fragile environments.   The plan would prohibit mining and quarry operations on sites that are designated Research Natural Areas and Botanical Areas.

Will Uranium Market Boom Or Fizzle?

Dec 16, 2014

The Chairman of Azarga Uranium says his company is poised to ride the uranium market to new highs. 

Azarga plans to mine uranium in the Black Hills near Edgemont. The company touts the proposed Dewey Burdock mine as its flagship project.

But critics question Azarga’s claims, both on the price of uranium and the company’s ability to safeguard local water supplies in the mining process.

You can click play below to hear more.

A Call To Shut Down The EPA In The US Senate Race

Oct 27, 2014
Amy Varland

For U.S. Senate candidate and former Governor Mike Rounds the EPA has gone too far.  

Rounds and many others say the Environmental Protection Agency is an example of oversized federal government abusing its power and meddling too much in the livelihoods of people in South Dakota.
Rounds has spoken publically about eliminating the EPA, often to the cheers of those gathered in the crowd.
SDPB’s Charles Michael Ray asks what it would really mean if the EPA went away in South Dakota.

After the Custer Expedition found gold in the Black Hills in the summer of 1874, miners and prospectors hoping to strike it rich rushed to the area, digging shafts and tunnels in search of the precious metal. Merchants and others quickly followed and established communities. While some of the mining towns still exist and thrive, many others were eventually abandoned and left to crumble.

Frac Sand Not In South Dakota

Mar 28, 2014

South Dakota sand won’t be used for North Dakota fracking.  

In hydraulic fracturing high pressure water and chemicals mixed with some sand are pumped underground to break the rocks below the surface and open fractures for oil to flow into production wells. Some state officials hoped South Dakota would have the right quality of sand for use in hydraulic fracturing.
Darren Johnson  is with the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources.  He took part in a study looking for frac sand in the state.  He says South Dakota sand just doesn’t meet the bar.

Official State Mining Museum Prospect Up

Feb 27, 2014

South Dakota will have an official mining museum in Lead if a bill making its way through the state legislature continues to sail forward.
House Bill 1192 cleared the State Senate Local Government Committee on Wednesday.  
Tom Nelson from Spearfish is a former state lawmaker and past chairman of the Black Hills Mining Museum.  He spoke in favor of an official state designation for the 27 year old facility.

Senate Bill 170 seeks to revise compensation for damage on surface land done by mining and oil drilling companies. It narrowly passed out of the Senate Commerce and Energy committee Tuesday morning after more than an hour of debate. Supporters say current landowners deserve the right to negotiate compensation. But opponents argue the language is too vague.

Uranium Mining In The Black Hills

Sep 30, 2013

Joe O'Sullivan and Dan Simmons-Richie of the Rapid City Journal wrote a series of reports taking an in-depth look at the issue of uranium mining in the Black Hills. What is being called one of the most important environmental decisions in decades for the Black Hills is being decided over the coming months. The South Dakota Board of Minerals and Environment finished up the first week of hearings on the proposed Powertech Uranium Mine planned for the Southern Black Hills. The heated issue is bringing intense debate and testimony in the court style hearings.

Arsenic Pollution On The Cheyenne River Reservation

Apr 23, 2013

A new study shows dangerous levels of arsenic contamination on parts of the Cheyenne River Reservation.  Arsenic is known to cause cancer, and the study points to a human health risk from the current concentrations found in some areas.

The study adds to the current body of research, showing that the pollution from historic mining in the northern Black Hills was carried down the Cheyenne River and deposited in areas where residents work and recreate.

Reese Erlich To Speak In South Dakota

Feb 26, 2013

Best-selling author and veteran journalist Reese Erlich will speak at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology Wednesday afternoon.  There, he'll share his travels to the mineral rich areas of the Middle East and discuss why mining professionals must understand the politics and conflicts in the region.  Thursday, Erlich's presentation at Black Hills State University is "Who Won the Iraq War?"  Both events are free to attend.  Visit Erlich's website at

Uranium Bills Fail In Committee

Feb 7, 2013

The State Senate Ag and Natural Resources committee killed three bills aimed at providing more government oversight of uranium mining.
The committee meeting included heated testimony from those who say the current law doesn’t go far enough to protect South Dakota’s water from exploitation by mining companies.
But opponents challenged that current law is adequate, they say the proposed legislation is an effort to kill uranium mining in the state altogether.

Committee Approves Landowner Rights Bill

Jan 15, 2013

The House Agriculture and Natural Resource Committee in Pierre wants mining and drilling companies to ask permission before entering private land. Representative Betty Olson of Harding County is the bills prime sponsor. Olson says the message of this bill is very simple.

Sanford Lab Safety Officer Retires

Nov 1, 2012

Sanford Laboratory Safety Officer Tom Regan leaves his position on November 2, exactly 43 years after he started working at Homestake as a student in 1969.  Over the years, Regan has been an underground laborer, a locomotive operator, a miner, a heavy equipment operator and a scheduler.  Regan was among those who worked with the state to help establish the South Dakota Science and Technology Authority, which would eventually secure the former Homestake Gold Mine pr0perty for development into a federal underground laboratory.  Regan visits with Karl Gehrke from the Sanford Underground Lab.