Mining board won’t visit location of Wharf gold mine expansionPIERRE — The state Board of Minerals and Environment reached consensus Thursday: Another visit to the Wharf gold mine won’t be necessary when the board considers the company’s expansion permit in November.
By: Bob Mercer, The Daily Republic
PIERRE — The state Board of Minerals and Environment reached consensus Thursday: Another visit to the Wharf gold mine won’t be necessary when the board considers the company’s expansion permit in November.
The board has toured Wharf’s operations at Terry Peak in Lawrence County several times during the past decade. The most recent came last September, on a day when heavy fog limited visibility.
The board’s hearing on Wharf’s expansion is set for Nov. 16-17 in Pierre. Board member Lee McCahren of Vermillion argued for making a trip in September or October.
McCahren said one of the first questions asked by opponents at permit hearings is whether the board has seen the site.
But he found no support Thursday for another trip.
While they said they’ve seen the site enough, as a compromise Tim Johns of Lead and Dennis Landguth of Rapid City suggested the board reserve the right to visit Wharf after the hearing if necessary.
But chairman Richard Sweetman of Sioux Falls disagreed, in part because winter weather would have set in and because the permit decision would be further delayed.
Wharf previously agreed to the board holding the hearing 45 days later than planned.
“That would be pretty unworkable,” Sweetman said.
Linda Hilde of Madison stood with Sweetman. “We really have been out in that area and looked at it,” she said. “I think we’re pretty familiar with it.”
One of the arguments being made by opponents of Wharf’s plans is parts of the expansion would come close to houses, condominiums and a cemetery, and would force changes in the Terry Peak ski complex.
Wharf officials have told state mining regulators the mine will be out of reserves in 2012 without the expansion. Wharf is the last large-scale gold mine operating in South Dakota.
Johns and Landguth agreed to withdraw their motion.
The board never took an actual vote, but the comments and the lack of a second for McCahren’s October-visit proposal made clear the decision.
“It’s much better, I think, to look down at a map and feel what the effect might be,” Sweetman said.