Coeur-Wharf files application to expand

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LEAD — Coeur-Wharf Resources has started the permitting process to try and expand its mining operation by 47.4 acres.

The mining company filed an intent to expand to an area known as the Boston Expansion area, which is about four miles west of of Lead in the Bald Mountain Mining District, north of Lost Camp Creek, the Terry Housing District, and the Barefoot Condominiums. According to the application, the expansion would extend the life of the mine by one to three years, or to as late as 2030.

On Oct. 1 Coeur-Wharf Resources filed its intent to apply for a large-scale mining permit, and asked the DANR to start the process to determine whether the land is special, exceptional, critical or unique. The land is located about 2 miles east of Spearfish Canyon and just over a mile northwest of the Terry Cemetery, both areas that have been designated as special, exceptional, critical or unique lands. However, the application specifies that the proposed mining area does not include any of those lands.

The application asks for a determination of 47.4 acres of land that will be used for active mining, with existing facilities and transportation routes used to move material. The proposed mining will look very much like Coeur-Wharf’s current operation, using open-pit mining and overburden disposal, with ore transported to the existing Wharf Mine heap-leaching facility for processing. As with all Wharf Mine operations, waste rock and additional material will be used to backfill previously mined areas.

Brian Walsh, public affairs director with the DANR, said the state agency, along with the S.D. Department of Game, Fish and Parks, the State Historical Preservation Office, Archaeological Research Center, and the Department of Tourism will review Wharf’s application during a 30-day period, to determine whether the land should be nominated for inclusion on the preliminary list of special, exceptional or unique lands. The state is still in that 30-day review timeframe, which should end next month. Once that is completed, subsequent reviews can take up to seven days while additional information is gathered. Once the application is published in the local newspaper, members of the public will have 60 days to submit public comment about the matter. If there are any public petitions submitted, the Board of Minerals and Environment will review them before making a determination about the lands.

The Wharf Mine comprises 1,979 acres in Lead, with 1,273 acres of that land previously disturbed and 269 acres that have been reclaimed. According to the application, Wharf has six active mining permits, dating back to 1982, with the most recent state mine permit issued on Jan. 19, 2012. Wharf has been mining in the Northern Black Hills since 1974.

A determination of special, exceptional, critical or unique lands does not automatically preclude Wharf from expanding into the territory, but according to the application it could require special conditions for the large-scale mining permit. To be considered special, exceptional, critical or unique, the land must either be ecologically fragile and unable to return to its former ecological role in the reasonable future; have such a strong influence on the surrounding ecosystem that even a temporary disturbance could cause an unpredictable reaction; or have scenic, historic, archaeologic, topographic, geologic, ethnologic, scientific, cultural or recreational significance.

The Wharf application acknowledges that the mining operations will alter the landscape of the expansion area, but the land will not be so adversely affected that it cannot return to its former ecolological role in the forseeable future. The application points to other areas in the Coeur-Wharf Resources operation that returned to woodland grazing after reclamation efforts were completed. Additionally, Wharf claims in its application that the expanded land has very similar characteristics to the land for its current operations. However, the application acknowledges that the expansion area will be slightly more visible to the public from Perkins Road, but not visible from Highway 34 or Interstate 90. It also states that the expansion will not be visible from nearby housing areas at Lost Camp or the Barefoot Condominiums, due to existing vegetation that shields view of the mine.

To view the Coeur-Wharf Request for Determination of Special, Exceptional, Critical or Unique Lands and Intent to Operate application, visit https://danr.sd.gov/Environment/MineralsMining/Exploration/docs/WharfBostonExpansionSUApp1.pdf.

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