Preliminary Approval Given For Black Hills Drilling

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — The U.S. Forest Service has given preliminary approval to a Minnesota company that wants to do some exploratory drilling for gold in South Dakota's Black Hills.

The land involved is near the Pactola Reservoir in the Black Hills National Forest and is owned by the federal government. Minneapolis-based F3 Gold has been seeking approval for its drilling project for several years.

The Forest Service has now completed its final environmental assessment and issued a draft decision that would allow the drilling to move forward, but with numerous restrictions to protect cultural sites, water and other natural resources, South Dakota Public Broadcasting reported.

The draft decision is subject to a 45-day objection period. The Forest Service would consider any objections before issuing a final decision.

“After an exhaustive, multi-year process atypical for a small-scale exploration drilling project, we are pleased that we are finally getting our permit,” F3 Gold Vice President Brian Lentz said in a statement.

The Forest Service draft decision allows for 47 drilling pads on more than 3 acres (1.2 hectares) near Jenny Gulch.

Lilias Jarding of the Black Hills Clean Water Alliance said exploratory drilling could eventually lead to a gold mine. Jarding said a mine could pollute the Pactola Reservoir, which is a popular recreational destination and is also as a storage reservoir for water systems, which include Rapid City.

Gold has been mined in the Black Hills since the 1870s. The Homestake mine near Lead was once the largest and deepest gold mine in North America before it closed in 2002.