County Commission wrestles with new mining ordinance

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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA TV) After four and a half hour standing-room-only session Tuesday night, a special meeting on mining laws in Pennington County ended in a tie.

County Commissioners split 2-2 on a key issue and then voted to continue the meeting until their next regular meeting and also scheduled another special meeting to tackle the topic.

The special meeting was called to take public comment on a proposed new ordinance regulating aggregate mines. Citizen concern is high because some believe the proposed new language opens the door for Croell Redi-Mix to resume mining south of Rapid City. The county commission denied Croell a permit last year and the company appealed all the way to the Supreme Court -- and lost.

About 90 people packed the commission meeting room Tuesday evening and public comment stretched the meeting until after 10 p.m.
Commissioner Ron Buskrud's Internet connection failed and that left only the four commissioners in the meeting room to decide the main points a citizen's group brought forth. The proposed new law gives the planning commission final say on granting mining permits. The citizens want that county commission to make that call.

The commission deadlocked on that issue Tuesday night with Commissioners Deb Hadcock and Loyd LaCroix voting to let the planning board make the mining permit decisions and Mark DiSanto and George Ferebee voting to have the county commission take on he responsibility.

The tie wasn't too frustrating for attorneys representing the citizens group.

"The board, as it stands, voted 2-to-2 so we haven't made any progress yet," said lawyer Kelsey Parker. "But the board hasn't approved a first reading of this ordinance so we still have time to make an impact."

Earlier in the special meeting the commissioners voted to form a committee to revamp the county laws governing hard rock mining such as the proposed gold mine near Rochford. That move was welcomed by many in the audience.

"Forming a committee that would look into whether such projects are in the public interest," said Bruce Ellison. "Whether such projects are really the best thing for our community and if it is going to be allowed that it would provide adequate safeguards to truly, in fact, protect our water resources."

The commission will revisit the aggregate mining ordinance on February 20th with the special meeting devoted to the topic coming on the 23rd.