Pennington County eyes new hard rock mining laws

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Pennington County took its first step toward creating a new hard rock mining ordinance Tuesday by directing a citizen to draft a plan for moving forward.

Rapid City attorney Bruce Ellison

The county's mining laws have generated widespread community interest. A multi-year plan to rework the county's surface mining rules was the subject of multiple packed commission hearings and today is mired in legal proceedings awaiting a ruling from the state supreme court.

A new hard rock ordinance could potentially regulate such activities as the proposed large-scale gold mine near Rochford. Bruce Ellison, a local attorney, was tapped to begin the new process says the stakes are high.

"We know from every gold mining operation (in the Northern Hills) where there have not been proper conditions or restraints set by the county or the state we have Super Fund sites," said Ellison. "We have areas where you can't fish, you can't swim and the water should not be drunk."

Ellison says he expects to have some preliminary suggestions for county commissioners by November.