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Spearfish Canyon Gold Mine Environmentally Equivalent to Homewoners and Tourists?

Last month, the Lawrence County Commission delayed action on a conditional use permit for Valentine Mining's Deadwood Standard Project, a gold mine proposed for just over the east rim of scenic Spearfish Canyon.

That month is up: tomorrow's (Tuesday, August 21) commission agenda includes continuation of the public hearing on the Deadwood Standard Project and board discussion and action from 10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. That portion of the meeting moves down Sherman Street from the Lawrence County Administrative Annex to Deadwood City Hall, likely in anticipation of a crowd.

The local press has been crowded with letters and advertisements urging the commissioners to vote one way or another. One missive that grabbed my attention comes from Jerry Boyer, a local author, photographer, and conservationist. The Spearfish Canyon Society, of which Boyer is a board member, supports the mining project for numerous reasons, including Valentine Mining's promise to give the 408-acre mining site to the public after the ten-year mining project ends. In a column published in last Tuesday's Black Hills Pioneer, Boyer argues that the Spearfish Canyon Owner's Association, which opposes the mine, are arrogantly blocking one form of exploitation of the Canyon just to protect their own exploitation of the canyon:

Is not this view the height of human arrogance? Is the view of hundreds of million dollar cottages scattered throughout the world-class natural landscape any less intrusive than a mining project out of sight? Is the potential for water degradation by fecal matter any less threatening than mining contaminants? Is the noise of lawn mowers, barking dogs, and chain saws in the canyon any less disruptive to the natural tranquility than backup beepers? Is the smoke from stacks of cozy fireplaces and auto emissions saturating the pristine canyon air any less offending than the dust of machinery? Is the wildlife any less stressed by residence of man and his beast than mineral extraction?

Mining impacts on the natural landscape have a short life of 10 years while homeowner impacts continue in perpetuity ... forever. The mining project will spend millions on government imposed conditions to prevent intrusions on the natural landscape while homeowners pay nothing for theirs. Mining impacts will be reclaimed to a natural environment better than it was found, and the land likely gifted to the public as a canyon legacy [Jerry Boyer, "Human Arrogance," Black Hills Pioneer, August 14, 2012].

I've exploited the Canyon frequently myself, sullying the air with my car exhaust and bike exhaust, tromping on the ground for my personal fitness and amusement. Our Lakota neighbors could argue that my ecologically light footprinting around the Hills intrudes as blasphemously and imperialistically as jackhammers and dump trucks wresting gold from the sacred earth.

I'm hoping to attend the county commission hearing tomorrow to hear other views on the exploitation of our natural treasure. But as I get ready for the meeting, I'd like to hear readers' thoughts. Is more gold mining no worse an exploitation of the Canyon and the Black Hills than our relentless colonization of the Paha Sapa by vacation house, restaurant, trail, and four-wheeler?


  1. larry kurtz 2012.08.20

    One of Jerry's ex-wives was a board member for Golden Reward Mining Company and the Black Hills Mining Association, and chair of the GOP in Lawrence Count not that many years ago that allowed them to build at least one McMansion.

    That he is some converted environmentalist is absurd on its earth hater face.

  2. larry kurtz 2012.08.20

    Don Pay knows the site better than i do.

    If memory serves there is significant environmental damage from previous events: reclamation while metals prices are high makes sense even though a strengthening dollar will ultimately make the carrot seem too small for the stick without a deadline and a big-ass bond.

    Be careful to underestimate Bob Ewing, CAH.

  3. larry kurtz 2012.08.20

    He might just be the only honest guy on the commission.

  4. Julie Gross (NE) 2012.08.20

    --Our Lakota neighbors could argue that my ecologically light footprinting around the Hills intrudes as blasphemously and imperialistically as jackhammers and dump trucks wresting gold from the sacred earth.

    Was starting the Bear Butte fire in 1996 considered a sacred act on a sacred butte by a sacred people?

  5. Julie Gross (NE) 2012.08.20


    Sorry, religious biews have no place in the public square.

  6. larry kurtz 2012.08.20

    Bear Butte looks great coming back in aspen: Wakan Tanka works in mysterious biews every day.

  7. John M. Nelson 2012.08.20

    "Our Lakota neighbors could argue that my ecologically light footprinting around the Hills intrudes as blasphemously and imperialistically as jackhammers and dump trucks wresting gold from the sacred earth."
    Well said, or is it written?, keyboarded? whatever. I would add to this litany of blasphemes the roar of motorcycle exhaust.

  8. Les 2012.08.20

    There are honest commissioners Larry, I hope they have the brass to stand up for what is right.

  9. Les 2012.08.20

    :-), Larry, you are both funny and times.

    The canyon should be held as close to its native state as possible.

    I cannot fly over the Grand Canyon at under 8500 feet plus or minus yet we allow anything that fits or flows into our gem including hazardous materials to no end and noise pollution beyond compare.

  10. grudznick 2012.08.20

    I think the grand canyon is bigger and longer than Spearfish valley. Keep digging.

  11. larry kurtz 2012.08.20

    Good eye, grudz: it's just a ditch away from Belle Fourche. When armored D10s are outlawed only outlaws will own armored D10s.

  12. Donald Pay 2012.08.20

    Let's just say that Boyer and his "group" have always been in the tank for the mining industry against the people living in Spearfish Canyon, who have generally opposed mining. His group got lots of funding from the mining industry to start up a counter organization to the people who lived in the Canyon, which makes the group an astro-turf organization.

    I heard Boyer's arguments many times in the 1990s by him and others lobbying for the mining industry. It's not surprising they go back to the same tired and false arguments, because the science and history is against them most of the time. After all, none of the homeowners have created a toxic Superfund site that have poisoned broad areas of the Hills and used taxpayer's money to clean up, like several of the mines.

    Again, the argument that Valentine is going to "clean up" the site by mining it is one that is used to sell every permitted mine site in the Hills. It's an easy argument to make, since the Hills has been extensively mined in the past. But I remind you that the Brohm Mine was using that argument while it was creating the Superfund site at its mine.

    I'd say about half the time these fake "clean up projects" don't work out, but make matters worse. Half the time is a coin flip, and at stake is the destruction of one of the most beautiful places on earth. It's not a good gamble in my opinion.

    There used to be a Valentine on the Board of Minerals and Environment, I believe. Scary.

  13. grudznick 2012.08.20

    I don't know much about geology and dowsing but can you imagine the outcrying if they find that the oil field from Williston comes under this canyon and people start drilling for oil and gas? This gold digging will only be 20 feet deep, the oil digging will be thousands of feet deep. Or coal, what if there is coal there. Once it all burns and the kitties are all dead nobody will care if they drill there.

  14. Donald Pay 2012.08.20

    Grudzmick: Most of the mines start out small, and expand. One of the things Valentine ought to be required to delineate the extent of any ore bodies or write into the permit that they will not be allowed to expand.

  15. grudznick 2012.08.20

    You can't dig a big hole without digging a little hole first.

  16. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.08.20

    Donald gets me thinking... alas, I can't find the Spearfish Canyon Society's 990s online. Secretary Gant's office does note that the SCS is delinquent in filing the paperwork necessary to maintain its status as a non-profit corporation... but holy cow! Boyer lives three blocks from me! I should drop by and remind him to send his annual report to Pierre.

  17. Donald Pay 2012.08.20

    This is a different organization than the one in the 1990s, apparently, and it seems more likely that it was formed to provide a means to transfer some land from private to public ownership (maybe Homestake land?). Given fact that it's a non-profit group, it seems rather strange it is serving as a shill for the mine. Clearly this organization is going to be paid off with a potentially toxic mine site, which it may try to foist off on the State of South Dakota or the federal government for all we know. It's a nice way to get some good publicity for the mine while foisting it off on some other sucker.

  18. John 2012.08.20

    About the only way to stop this mining in the future is to amend the forest plan by withdrawing the lands and minerals in the Spearfish Creek watershed from mineral exploration or development. That takes about a decade and is a very challenging endeavor.

  19. Jana 2012.08.20

    If it's a legitimate rape of the canyon, then the canyon won't be pregnant with toxic waste, scars or expensive taxpayer cleanup. The canyon's ecosystem will create a natural defense.

    Now if it's an illegitimate rape...well that's another story.

  20. Julie Gross (NE) 2012.08.21

    --The canyon should be held as close to its native state as possible.

    Lake Herman, and the surrounding 10 miles, should be restored and maintained in its native state.

    Property owners will not be compensated other than with the knowledge and comfort that they too can share in the wonderful prairie views.

  21. larry kurtz 2012.08.21

    South Dakota should be erased from the map completely and replaced with the People's Democratic Union of Kurtzistan.

  22. Justin 2012.08.21

    We could make it a tribute Julie Gross (NE), who has stayed closer to her chimp lineage than any person alive.

  23. larry kurtz 2012.08.21

    @coralhei is live tweeting Deadwood Standard hearing.

  24. larry kurtz 2012.08.21

    RT @coralhei #dsp says it will use 50-gal of water per minute; Casling says that's notenough to run the show

    Supreme Court 1980 declared taking of Black Hills illegal, no title here legal (this should make Canyon homeowners uneasy) #dsp #indians

  25. larry kurtz 2012.08.21

    RT @coralhei White Face notes that occupation of Black Hills violates treaty, reads order from 1870s telling Army not to block miners from trespassing...

  26. larry kurtz 2012.08.21

    RT @coralhei Michael Goodroad, Spearfish Canyon res., says USGS report in 2000 found (p29, fig8) #dsp area has "highest relative sensitivity"

  27. larry kurtz 2012.08.21

    RT ‏@coralhei Audobon Society gal says #dsp application is insufficient, grounds to say no today,require resubmit, lacks spec. location of pits

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