Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Members File Lawsuit to Challenge Exploratory Gold Mining Permit in Black Hills of South Dakota

Chairman Harold Frazier

Published February 23, 2018

RAPID CITY, SOUTH DAKOTA –  On February 20, 2018, three members of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe filed a lawsuit in Pennington County Circuit Court in Rapid City, South Dakota, to challenge a decision by the South Dakota Board of Minerals and Environment to transfer of an exploratory gold mining permit from a Canadian company to its South Dakota affiliate. The company, Mineral Mountain Resources of Vancouver, British Columbia, filed for the permit to explore for gold in an area of the Black Hills on private mining claims, known as the Standby Project, southeast of Rochford, South Dakot

The Sioux Nation, including the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, consider the Black Hills sacred. The tribal members who filed suit have asserted an interest in protecting the land, natural resources, and water in the Black Hills. They are concerned the proposed gold exploration project will pollute the land, natural resources, and water in the Black Hills.

“We must utilize all resources and angles to protect our sacred Black Hills. We, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, stand with our Tribal Members and all others who stand to protect our sacred lands,” Harold Frazier, Chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, said.

The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe knows firsthand the harms gold mines can cause. The Tribe sued another mining company, the Homestaking Mining Company, in for cleanup and damages in the late 1990s. The Homestake Mine polluted Whitewood Creek, the Belle Fourche River, the Cheyenne River, and the Missouri River through cyanide leach gold mining in the Black Hills near Lead, South Dakota. The United States and the State of South Dakota also sued the Homestake Mining Company. The Homestake Mine is now closed.

The gold exploration project proposed by Mineral Mountain Resources will draw up 1.8 million gallons of water for drilling from Rapid Creek, which feeds Pactola Lake, the largest reservoir in the Black Hills and Rapid City’s primary source of drinking water.

Mineral Mountain Resources, Ltd. has a history of gold mining in the Black Hills. In 2013, while drilling near Keystone, South Dakota, the company was issued a Notice of Violation from the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources for causing an unauthorized discharge of drilling fluids to enter and degrade the natural quality of the water in Battle Creek.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday alleges that the transfer of the mining permit from one company to another was unlawful. The lawsuit alleges the permit was void from the beginning since it was illegally issued to a foreign Canadian corporation that did not have authority to do business in South Dakota and that was not eligible to apply for an exploratory mining permit in South Dakota. The plaintiffs argue that the transfer did not cure the fatal defect. They seek full public hearings on the gold exploration project.

The tribal member plaintiffs are A. Gay Kingman, Steven C. Emery, and Robin Zephier, all of Rapid City, South Dakota. For more information, please contact their attorney: Steven J. Gunn (314-920-9129).


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