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South Dakota Mining Ass'n v. Lawrence County

ELR Citation: 29 ELR 20043
Nos. 97-3861, 155 F.3d 1005/(8th Cir., 09/16/1998)

The court holds that the Federal Mining Act of 1872 preempts a local zoning ordinance that bans surface metal mining within the Spearfish Canyon area of South Dakota. The court first holds that miners' preemption claim against the county ordinance is ripe. The miners have shown a realistic danger of sustaining an immediate, direct injury as a result of the operation or enforcement of the ordinance. The miners all own patented or unpatented mining claims within the Spearfish Valley area, and under the plain text of the ordinance, none of the miners may be granted a new or amended permit for surface metal mining on any of their mining claims.

The court next holds that the ordinance is preempted by the Federal Mining Act. Because surface metal mining is the only practical way the plaintiffs can mine the valuable mineral deposits located on federal land in the area, the ordinance's effect is a de facto ban on mining in the area, which acts as a clear obstacle to the accomplishment of the congressional purposes and objectives embodied in the Federal Mining Act. Congress has encouraged exploration and mining of valuable mineral deposits located on federal land and has granted certain rights to those who discover such minerals. Federal law also encourages the economical extraction and use of these minerals. The ordinance completely frustrates the accomplishment of these federally encouraged activities. A local government cannot prohibit a lawful use of the sovereign's land that the superior sovereign itself permits and encourages.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Michelle P. Percy
Fuller, Tellinghuisen, Gordon & Eckrich
203 W. Main St., P.O. Box 898, Lead SD 57754
(605) 584-2440

Counsel for Defendant
John H. Fitzgerald
State Attorney's Office
90 Sherman St., Deadwood SD 57732
(605) 578-1707

Before McMillian and Loken, JJ.