SD Environmental Group Suing Forest Service Over FOIA Request About Proposed Gold Exploration


     A South Dakota environmental group has filed a complaint in federal court against the U-S Forest Service and its parent, the Department of Agriculture, over a Freedom of Information request about a proposed exploratory gold mining operation.

      F3 Gold wants to do exploratory drilling in up to 42 locations on the Black Hills National Forest in the Jenny Gulch area north of Silver City and near Pactola Reservoir.

The company says there will be no trace of the project after it’s over, but the Black Hills Clean Water Alliance disagrees. 

     It says exploration on the Black Hills National Forest could lead to development of a mine that could pollute Pactola and Rapid Creek, both major water sources for Rapid City. 

     The Alliance alleges the Forest Service and USDA withheld “an undetermined number of pages” from its FOIA request and failed to provide detailed, specific cases of exemptions to F3 Gold’s application

       Attorney Jeff Parsons, who represents the Alliance, says that while the case is on its face about accessing information, “it’s really about making sure than any mining activity…is done in a way that’s not going to cause permanent and irrevocable harm.”

       Parsons says F3 Gold’s mining proposals could have significant impacts on the forest – including impacts to water quality, cultural resources, and wildlife among others. 

       The Forest Service released 2,627 records and put them on its website, but the Alliance claims some were removed and altered. 

        The group filed its FOIA appeal in March and Parsons says after the appeal failed to resolve the issue, the only way to get resolution is in court – adding that “if the agency won’t comply with the Freedom of Information Act there’s really no other alternative.

       Parsons says the Forest Service needs full transparency on F3 Gold’s application and any exemptions granted the company so that the public can have a full understanding of what’s being asked and the potential impact of the project.