Limestone Mining Within Communities Of South Dakota's Black Hills

by Nola Lee Kelsey - Date: 2008-10-30 - Word Count: 1341 Share This!

Most of us are familiar with the saying "It takes a village to raise a child". What warm and fuzzy village pundits fail to mention is that it takes a 135 year old law for our Government to do nothing while a gravel pit is mined in the middle of that child's village.

Don't feel naive. I was unfamiliar with this less touted proverb until a family member forwarded me a copy of a letter which he had submitted to our local media outlets in Western South Dakota.

"I treasure the Black Hills. I cringe when I see the unsightly devastation to the Hills that is occurring due to limestone surface mining. As you approach the Hills from the east you no longer see forest merging gently onto prairie, but instead a long brown scar of destruction crawling north from Rapid City toward Black Hawk.

Pete Lien and Sons plan to extend their gravel pit from west of St. Martins, north to Peaceful Pines Rd., and then further north to Anderson Road (a mile north of Black Hawk). This area encompasses beautiful hills, cliffs, and valleys, and is adjoined by many private homes. Most of the area is, in fact, Forest Service land. The Liens have obtained mining claims based on the outdated Mining Act of 1872.

There is no shortage of limestone in the world. Surface mining in the middle of a community is unacceptable. The Liens have worked to be good members of the community, and to try to mitigate the damage from their business operations. I call on them to relocate their mining operations to more remote sites. If not, I call on the government and citizens to put a halt to this outrage.

Mark Anderson"

Mark was asked to remove the mining company's name form his letter before it was published as a Letter to the Editor in our regional paper. While there has been some local reporting on the surface mining scourge in our community, it is not done with enough aggression because of that whole big name/small town thing. Very smart. I understand the need to cover ones backside. Wait a second. Oh cr*p! Did I leave the name Pete Lien and Sons in the letter above?

Oh well. I guess I'll just maintain my unholy self-preservation by not pointing out to readers that it is no coincident South Dakota politician Chris Lien has the same name. It's just a thought, but I'm personally not sure this family should be handed more power, given their ardent history of meshing gravel quarries with communities.

Okay, so I am obviously not well versed in the art of subtlety and unbiased reporting. Of course, I am not a reporter. But when a satire writer finds out her sleepy family home is about to border a lime-dust-enveloped, noise-filled, tree-less, health-hazard, she gets a touch disgruntled. Deal with it!
On the plus side, unlike Letters to the Editor, I am never limited to 250 words! Better still I can, and will, say a companies name when I discuss their publicly noted activities on 'public' lands.

Lien! Lien! Lien! Lien! Lien!

Of course why should newspapers have all the fun? After all, there is a lighter side to letting a surface mine scar up the neighborhood. In fact, it's so light it's airborne. Some call it dust. Lime dust's affects on the health of the village children (and elders) can be read in such light-hearted and whimsically titled articles as, Disabling Pneumoconiosis from Limestone Dust. (LOL?)

This disturbing, yet, light and dusty article was written by those good people who brought us health. Mines operators, kickback purveyors and political lobbyists made no notable contributions. It took all of five minutes to me to find more environmental problems associated with limestone dust. Take for example damaging photosynthesis and respiration in evergreen trees.

You know evergreens right? They are those pesky trees that cover the Black Hills and form the backbone of the web of all life in our region. Weak, lime dust saturated trees are more susceptible to insect damage. Can you say Mountain Pine Beetle epidemic? You can if you live in the South Dakota. The beetles have been decimating the Black Hills for years now. Sprinkling on lime dust make me think of rolling out a red carpet for further infestations.

By the way, evergreens exposed to mineral dust from limestone mining are also dryer and less fire resistant. Fire! Sounds like a bonus for those with homes in the hills. First pneumoconiosis, then lower property values and now an inferno! Yippee! This will make for beautiful sunsets as the last of the tourists flee the unsightly hills taking their tourism dollars with them forever.

Just to be safe residents around the proposed Pete Lien and Sons mine site should consider memorizing OSHA's ( list on the "exposure Limits" for Lime Dust. To understand them you'll need high speed internet, a medical dictionary, three slide rules and a secret decoder ring. Fortunately their list of outright health risks is clearer.

Potential symptoms: Irritation of eyes, skin, mucous membranes; cough, sneezing, rhinorrhea (discharge of thin mucous); lacrimation (discharge of tears).

Health Effects: Nuisance Particulates (HE19)

Affected organs: Eyes, skin, respiratory system"

And what fun loving, forest dwelling family wouldn't want to share years of repertory problems and "rhinorrhea"? Who needs Yatzee(r)?

It is true other companies are also taking our backyard paradise and putting up less than a parking lot. The time has come for these visual blights and the entire intrusive presence of surface mining to be vanquished from the Black Hills region, no matter which company is conducting these operations.

Our elected officials are here to serve all voters, not just Lien towards big names in small ponds. They must stand vigilant against antiquated legislation - lest we oust antiquated politicians. This is the year 2008. Why are our forest lands, home values and the villages of our children not being protected from a Mining Act that was written 16 year before South Dakota even became a state?

I repeat this act was written 'before' South Dakota existed. Is government on a longer than usual lunch or what? Our population has actually increased since statehood. Neighborhoods should trump Mining Claims enacted in a time when dentures were carved from trees - even if they were those pesky evergreens! The destructive capabilities mankind's machines are now capable of were unfathomable a mere 13 decades ago.

Mark Anderson is correct. We need a rallying cry. South Dakotan's need to stand strong together, demanding a real change. The Black Hills are sacred to all. There is another saying you may be familiar with. "All that is necessary for the forces of evil to take root in the world is for enough good men to do nothing - about a gravel quarry."

What's next? If government doesn't draw the line here, will we soon use school playgrounds as a handy place to burn our old tires? Doesn't Mount Rushmore supposedly belong to the public? I hope no one holds an old claim or Squatter's Rights on an ear lobe or Teddy Roosevelt's left eye. Can I claim Lincoln's chin for my driveway landscaping?

Sorry. Where was I? Oh yea, if this eco-vulgar mining practice does go forth destroying the forest in our community, will our elected politicians at least sew up this loophole, so future neighborhoods will not endure such an offence to our, so called, National Forests?

Meantime, until the forest re-grows to its natural state (e.t.a. 150 thousand years), I ask our elected representatives to lower our real estate values/assessments and collect fewer property taxes from constituents around the mine. You can take the difference out of your own salaries. Meanwhile I am sure Pete Lien and Sons, will be happy to pay all medical costs involved for the residents of the village, their children, their pets and their evergreens.

Disclaimer: The proceeding was an opinion piece. My opinion. Contrary to popular belief, you are permitted to have your own opinion as long as no one holds a 135 year old mining claim on it.

Lien! Lien! Lien! Lien! Lien!

Related Tags: health, travel, news, government, minerals, stop, elections, south dakota, mines, sons, mining, black hills, lien, limestone, nola kelsey, pete lien

Zoologist Nola Lee Kelsey ( has penned a myriad of books from the wild and wicked new release, Dogs: Funny Side Up! to the charming, children's read-aloud Let's Go Visit Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. As she's meandered the globe, her humor articles have appeared in publications from Reptiles Magazine to The Bangkok Post. Kelsey is also the owner of Dog's Eye View Media (

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