As you read in last week’s Sundance Times, the US Forest Service has begun moving the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process forward in regard to Rare Element Resources’ plan for the Bull Hill rare earth mine. The preparation of an EIS will stipulate how the company will steer their mining operation within the forest lands that make up the Bear Lodge portion of the Black Hills National Forest. We are quite pleased that the Forest Service has started taking tangible steps down the EIS path. The process, as stipulated by the National Environmental Policy Act, will no doubt be a deliberate, protracted and important exercise expected to span many months. It will, by design, provide the public a significant opportunity to learn, discuss and influence a final decision as well.
It is important that each of us take the time necessary to understand what is being considered and make substitutive comments as the public comment periods come about. It is our words that will help drive a final outcome.
Equally, if not more importantly, it is imperative the Forest Service moves the process along as expediently as they possibly can. We fully understand a major project within any national forest is fraught with a multitude of twists and turns which must be considered but it is crucial they not allow the process to become bogged down in the trifling details that have the potential to turn the undertaking into bureaucratic quicksand.
Clearly the mine Rare Element Resources is working towards will have a profound effect on Sundance and the surrounding communities both from an economic and social standpoint. Just as importantly, a producing rare earth mine has the potential to exert a significant impact on manufacturing, national defense and geopolitical relationships with countries like China and Russia.
Whether one is for, against or indifferent to the mine; a local small business owner thinking about expanding, a shift worker considering a career change, a citizen concerned over environmental impacts or a national manufacturer sourcing raw materials, this process will touch many lives. It is imperative that the EIS process be accomplished with a sense of urgency and with the input of many.