I'm at Deadwood City Hall, covering the Lawrence County Commission hearing on the Deadwood Standard Project proposal to mine for gold in Spearfish Canyon. I've been Tweeting public comment from proponents and opponents... Only to have Twitter go bonkers on me as we get to DSP's rebuttal time. Grrr, technology!
The mining company spent an hour this morning presenting data on its procedures and on environmental concerns. In a nutshell, the company says the mining waste won't get out, the noise won't be noticeable, and this mine won't make the mistakes of other companies. Local proponents say the Deadwood Standard Project will generate big economic benefits, with high wages, job opportunities for folks who've had to move away to make a living, and big local spending. Among the big business supporters is GCC Dacotah, which expects to sell truckloads of cement to the gold mine.
Opponents have spoken passionately about the inevitability of accidents and the irreparability of lost water, wildlife, and beauty in the Canyon. Charmaine White Face of Defenders of the Black Hills noted the absence of any discussion of protection for sacred Lakota sites throughout the Canyon, many of which are kept secret to prevent exploitation. Rebecca Leas from Rapid City said she's seen in West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere that mining and tourism don't go together. And the local Audubon chief Nancy Hilding said the commission should reject the application based on missing documents (and does yeoman debater work citing page numbers!).
The DSP attorney just finished reiterating his recognition that the commission likely will not grant approval today and his concomitant request that the commission today either delay or grant a conditional approval pending state approval. Stay tuned: commission discussion and decision coming up!
Update: Note that this meeting was scheduled to run from 10:30 to 12:00. Proponent testimony alone ran past noon. Commision chair Bob Ewing now officially closes public testimony at 14:00. The Commission recesses to let the stenographer stretch her fingers.
--14:45 MDT: USGS expert now talking about hydrology of Spearfish Canyon: heavy science! Now's the time when you want really smart county commissioners.
Mike Cepak from DENR is now taking questions about the environmental condition of the Ragged Top area. He says we're not seeing major issues from the area now aside from sedimentation. Cepak says DSP has at least one year of baseline data it still has to get to get state approval; even if Lawrence County approves DSP today, no state approval for mining could happen until October 2013 at the earliest.
--Commissioners finally are discussing the issue. Much of the discussion is about unanswered questions and the need for more information from DSP amd state experts.
--And the official motion is to accept the applicant's waiver of the 45-day limit to act on the Conditional Use Permit. Motion passes.
DSP wants a hard date due for further commission action, like November, but commissioners are balking....
Now moved to postpone decision until DENR provides report and recommendation: passes 4-1, no from Flanagan. Practically, this means the county does not act on this permit for another year.