RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — A Minnesota company is preparing to conduct exploratory drilling for gold near Silver City in the Black Hills National Forest in South Dakota while two other companies have withdrawn bids to drill on forest land.

The Rapid City Journal reports Forest Service officials are working on an agreement with Big Rock Exploration that would require the company to fund an environmental analysis.

Forest Service supervisor Mark Van Every says Big Rock Exploration wants to drill around 40 holes on national forest land.

Federal mining statutes prohibit the Forest Service from rejecting an exploratory drilling project. The Forest Service, which oversees the surface rights, is only permitted to evaluate the project and place conditions on it.

Gold exploration and mining have taken place in the Black Hills since the 1870s.

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