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Homestake closes; high stakes open

South Dakota State Roundup

January 1, 2001

Homestake closes; high stakes open

Homestake Mine, the world's oldest continuously operating gold mine, is closing. The mine's owner, Homestake Mining Co., announced in September that operations at Homestake would be phased out over the next 16 months, bringing to an end an era that began two years after George Armstrong Custer's expedition discovered gold in the Black Hills in 1874.

The decision will have strong economic consequences for Lead, a community of 3,600. More than 330 employees will lose their jobs, on top of the 400 laid off in 1998, and the town, county and state will lose substantial mine-related tax revenues. Homestake officials expect to spend $66 million on reclamation and remediation at the mine, which has been embroiled in periodic controversies with environmentalists.

Local officials hope to fill the economic gap by bringing in light industry that will need the electricians and carpenters previously employed by the mine, and by expanding tourism, especially at ski areas and snowmobile trails. And in neighboring Deadwood, supporters of the recently passed initiative to increase casino bet limits to $100 believe that will lead to more jobs by increasing the number of visitors.

Douglas Clement