ROCHFORD, S.D. — Some private landowners are opposing a Canadian company’s search for gold in a remote area of South Dakota’s Black Hills National Forest.

Mineral Mountain Resources has submitted an operating plan to the forest for more than 20 drilling sites on federal land a couple miles south of Rochford. Another dozen sites will be drilled on nearby private land, where the company already has a permit from the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Rapid City Journal reported .

Landowners near the proposed sites are asking the U.S. Forest Service to reject the project. But the agency can only add conditions to the company’s plan of operations, said Gary Haag, a geologist with the Forest Service.

“There isn’t an option to turn it down,” Haag said. “What they’re doing is covered under the 1872 mining law.”

The federal General Mining Act upholds the right of virtually everyone — including foreign companies with U.S. subsidiaries — to explore for minerals on federal public land. Mineral Mountain Resources meets the law’s criteria because although its main office is in Canada, it also has a registered corporation in South Dakota.

Illinois resident Doug Rees said he owns a cabin near one of the proposed drilling sites. He wrote a letter to the Forest Service opposing the project for reasons including his desire to protect creek drainage areas from proposed withdrawals for the drilling rigs; his aversion to the project’s potential noise and equipment traffic; and the project’s likelihood of becoming an unsightly mine if the company finds gold.

Mineral Mountain CEO Nelson Baker said there’s currently no permit issued for drilling on federal lands.

Haag said it’ll take months for the Forest Service to fully analyze the company’s operation plan and the public’s comments.


Information from: Rapid City Journal, http://www.rapidcityjournal.com