A long-fought quarry project near the Big Stone Wildlife Refuge got a major boost yesterday when the Big Stone County Commissioners unanimously approved the permit for the project. The community fight over the open pit quarry, which would take out 487 acres of the famous granite outcroppings near the wildlife refuge, has been long and bitter.

Now, the only thing standing between local opponents and the project is a one year moratorium passed by the township. The South Dakota company that proposing the quarry, Strata Corporation, has said they don't see that moratorium as an obstacle, so It's likely to be a test of the Minnesota state law that allows townships and other local governments to control the fate of their communities. 

According to the West Central Tribune, the commissioners said that the company had fulfilled all the requirements of the permit.  The company has pledged to mitigate environmental damage as much as possible during the 100-year lifespan of the quarry. It also must win approval from the state and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over protection of rare ball cacti on the site.

In a demonstration of how contentious the project has become,  Clark Mastel, the rancher who grazes his cattle on the property, lost his lease because he refused to sign a letter written by Strata stating that he would withdraw his opposition. You can read the letter here on the West Central Tribune web site.


Don Felton leads a walking tour of the rock outcrop area that is proposed to be mined, at Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge in Minn.  AP/ West Central Tribune photo.

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