Dakota Rural Action Members Stand Up for Clean Water in the Black Hills and Win

Dakota Rural Action and others join forces to protest drilling for gold along Rapid Creek.

Protesters shocked employees of the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources by descending on their Rapid City office on April 26th, 2018, demanding water protection from pollution by exploratory drilling by a Canadian mining company in the Black Hills.

The group of fifteen concerned residents, made up of members of Dakota Rural Action, Black Hills Clean Water Alliance, Save Pe’Sla/Rochford, and Indivisible Rapid City, presented a list of demands to DENR Field Engineer Mark Keenahan. The list included open meetings and public input in relation to all mining activities that may affect Black Hills water sources. The protesters also demanded the DENR refrain from issuing any further water-use permits to Canadian-owned Mineral Mountain Resources for water from Rapid Creek or other Black Hills water sources for mining exploration.

Mineral Mountain Resources plans on drilling up to one hundred twenty exploration holes up to 5,000 feet deep. The substantial number of drilling cores pose a pollution risk to Rapid Creek and other waterways from radioactive sediment and heavy metals. Each exploration hole can take over one hundred fifty thousand gallons of water, which the company was planning on drawing from Rapid Creek, adding to the impact on the drainage. In the days following the protest, Mineral Mountain has withdrawn its permits to use Rapid Creek water.

The win may be short-lived, however, since the company is committed to sourcing water from another location so it can continue drilling.

The groups are protesting to avoid another Superfund site like the two left by the Brohm and Homestake mining companies in the same area. Concerned residents are also trying to get answers about the makeup of heavy metals and radioactive materials a proposed mine may bring to the surface, how waste-water will be disposed of, and how company reporting will be verified. They are also demanding that DENR enforce repair of roads destroyed by heavy equipment, including Bloody Gulch Road which remains rutted to the point it’s impassable.  

Photo by Blucolt