Who wants to drill for gold? Clean water activists want to know

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SILVER CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - The lure of gold is still drawing prospectors to the Black Hills, but these days it's in the form of companies asking for permits to search.

The Black Hills Clean Water Alliance filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Forest Service for details about proposed gold mining activity in the Black Hills.

One project is on hold and one is moving forward.

What about the other gold mining projects proposed for the Black Hills?

Turns out, the public doesn't know, and may not find out any time soon.

Mineral Mountain Resources, a Canadian company, drilled test holes last year near Rochford looking for gold. Today the company is not moving forward with plans for further drilling.

Over by Silver City, F3 Gold, a Minneapolis-based outfit, submitted plans to the U. S. Forest Service to drill 42 test holes. Those sites have to undergo an environmental review and any possible drilling there is likely more than a year off.

Meanwhile, as many as four other inquiries for test drilling were submitted last year to the forest service. Clean Water Alliance activists asked who they were and were rebuffed.

So the alliance in December filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking to find out the identities of the entities wanting to drill for gold on federal land in the Black Hills. That request, too, was rejected.

"What is a federal agency, a permitting agency doing not telling the public about private -- and likely foreign corporate activities -- to extract minerals which will threaten our water resources?" asked Clean Water Alliance lawyer Bruce Ellison. "How can they do that? So we have appealed that and it is currently up on appeal in front of the Administrative Board of Appeals."

The Forest Service cited aspects of the law that protect proprietary information from being released early in the application process.

"There's an exemption that allows us to not provide that information," said Scott Jacobson from the Forest Service.

Jacobson says that the Forest Service is negotiating now with F3 Gold on the funding and logistics for the required environmental assessments of the proposed Silver City-area project.