Company authorized to study South Dakota gold mine
RAPID CITY -- Federal and state regulators are entrusting a water pollution study at an abandoned South Dakota gold mine to a company that is potentially interested in reopening the mine.
RAPID CITY - Federal and state regulators are entrusting a water pollution study at an abandoned South Dakota gold mine to a company that is potentially interested in reopening the mine.
The Environmental Protection Agency and the South Dakota Department of Environment & Natural Resources have signed an agreement with Agnico Eagle Mines, a publicly traded company based in Toronto, Canada. Agnico is trying to determine whether there's enough remaining gold to reopen the Gilt Edge Mine near Lead.
Mining at Gilt Edge stopped in 1999, when the parent company of the mine's then-operator, Bohm Mining, declared bankruptcy in Canada. The company left behind pits containing a combined 150 million gallons of acidic water laden with lead, arsenic and cadmium. The EPA added the mine to its National Priorities List in 2000, making its cleanup eligible for Superfund money. Cleanup has been ongoing ever since.
The new agreement authorizes Agnico to conduct and finance an estimated $1.5 million toxic cadmium contamination investigation. It's not clear when the investigation will begin, but it's expected to take from 18 months to 2 years.
Gregg Loptien, Agnico's U.S. exploration manager, said they plan to delegate the work.
"We are not environmental specialists," Loptien told the Rapid City Journal . "We will be hiring contractors, and that is their job."
Loptien said the company will have to go through a permitting process if they want to reopen the mine. He said Agnico would likely be held responsible for the eventual reclamation of the entire site.
Joy Jenkins, remedial project manager for the EPA, stressed that the current agreement is for information-gathering only, and doesn't allow re-mining.
Lilias Jarding, a Black Hills Clean Water Alliance official, is skeptical of Agnico's involvement in the study.
"There's obviously going to be mixed motives there, because a mining company exists to mine," Jarding said.
Public comments are being requested through April 2. It's unclear what effect public input will have on an agreement that has already been signed.