Pennington County Commissioners set date for mine ordinance hearing

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The Pennington County Board of Commissioners has scheduled a special meeting to gather public input about a proposed revision of a mining ordinance.

Critics of the ordinance's take issue with the fact that revisions will allow the Pennington County Planning Commission to issue mining permits, instead of the Board of Commissioners. The Board of Commissioners hold elected positions, where the Planning Commission is an appointed position.

Duane Abata sat on a committee formed in April of 2016 to review and update mining and construction permit laws in Pennington County. He spoke on Wednesday, addressing the possibility of Canadian company Mineral Mountain Resources LTD. setting up a gold mine in Rochford near the sacred Native American Site of Pe’Sla. According to Abata, revisions to the ordinance would make it difficult to appeal the issuance of mining permits to companies like Mineral Mountain LTD.

“Right now, if this amendment were to pass there would be very little recourse for individuals effected by the mine to actually question whether or not the permit should be issued,” said Abata.

As currently written, the ordinance amendment is geared toward aggregate mining, which produces materials such as cement, sand and gravel. Mineral mining however, produces ores like gold and uranium. Currently, the ordinance provides a short-term solution for mineral mining.

According to Pennington County District 2 Commissioner, Lloyd LaCroix, the proposed ordinance revision gives the Board of Commissioners the ability to change the ordinance in the future.

“It's a compromise,” said LaCroix. “It's not favored in one way or another, in a good guiding council. If something's not working, we can come back and amend the ordinance and do that work.”

Currently, there is a moratorium on the issuance of new mining permits which expires on April 5.

The public meeting regarding mining is set for Feb. 13 at 5:30 p.m. at the Pennington County Administration building. After that, a second reading of the amendment will be held on Feb. 20.

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