MINING AND WATER
The last major gold mine to close in the Black Hills – the Gilt Edge Mine — went bankrupt, and taxpayers are paying for the cleanup. The estimated cost is $200 million, and the government is not sure if that will solve the problem. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the former mine is now a Superfund site, one of the nation’s most polluted sites.
• In 2019, the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology had only 7 graduates with mining degrees. Mining is not the main driver at the university.
In 2017, mining, quarrying, and oil/gas extraction together represented only 1% of employment in Pennington County, according to the Census Bureau. Mining is a very minor part of our county’s economy
The upper Rapid Creek watershed supplies drinking water to Rapid City, Ellsworth Air Force Base, Rapid Valley, Box Elder, and other smaller communities. As of mid-2020, about 24% of the land in the watershed has active mining claims on it, per Dr. Lilias Jarding.
The retail value of water produced by Rapid City is 72 cents per gallon, per Dr. Jerry Wright, School of Mines graduate. This means the City’s water is worth $2.9 billion per year.
This is almost 57 times more than the total amount spent in South Dakota by the Wharf mine near Terry Peak— the only operating large-scale gold mine in the state — in 2017 ($50.9 million for salaries, taxes, purchasing, community, per the company’s figures).
Rapid City’s water would become worthless if contaminated by mining in the upper Rapid Creek watershed. The current water treatment process is not designed to remove mining contaminants, and upgrading it to that level would cost millions of dollars.