Indigenous activists praised a recent federal government proposal to ban new mineral exploration in a swath of South Dakota’s Black Hills National Forest for 20 years but said it falls short by still allowing ongoing mining projects.
The U.S. Forest Service put forth a plan Tuesday to prohibit all new mineral exploration near one of the most contested sites in Indian Country, the Pactola Reservoir, the largest in the Black Hills. For generations, the Black Hills have been a focal point of Indigenous activism and the subject of a court battle over the federal government’s illegal seizure of the land in the late 1800s.
This week’s proposal to protect the aquifer — outlined in the Federal Register on Tuesday — would still allow ongoing mining operations in the hills, which has gone on for decades over the objections of Indigenous communities.
More than 18% of the Black Hills remains under mining claims, according to the Black Hills Clean Water Alliance, a nonprofit group advocating to stop mining in the Black Hills. In February, despite public outcry, the Forest Service said it would allow F3 Gold, a Minnesota-based mining company, to search for gold at 39 drill sites in the Pactola area.
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