Minerals and Mining Program - Exploration Permits



Exploration drilling



Who Needs an Exploration Permit


Exploration permits are required for exploration of all minerals such as gold and silver, precious metals, coal, dimension stone, decorative stone, uranium, precious metals, aggregates, and oil and gas seismic shot-holes.



What Activities are Exempt from Permitting


A permit is not required for activities that cause little or no surface disturbance. Such activities include:


1.     Auger or drill test holes less than 50 feet in depth and less than seven inches in diameter for sand, limestone, gypsum, shale, or iron ore used in the process of making cement;
2.     Airborne surveys and photographs;
3.     Non-explosive seismic energy sources (vibroseis);
4.     Augered bentonite or augered construction aggregate test holes or less than 50 feet in depth when accomplished in conformance with SDCL 45-6C-28 and SDCL 45-6C-32;
5.     Use of instruments or devices which are hand carried or otherwise transported over the surface to make magnetic, radioactive, or other measurements;
6.     Boundary or claim surveying;
7.     Location work;
8.     Annual assessment work to maintain the validity of a mining claim; and
9.     Any other work causing no greater land disturbance than is caused by ordinary lawful use of the land by persons not exploring for minerals.


Even though these activities are exempt from state exploration permitting requirements, an operator must comply with U.S. Forest Service and BLM requirements for exploration operations conducted on federal lands.



What is the Application Process for an Exploration Permit 


1.    Submit a completed exploration permit application and reclamation plan;
2.    Submit a completed certification of applicant form;
3.    Submit a topographic map showing the proposed exploration area;
4.    Submit a $250 application fee;
5.    Submit written consultation with the surface owner on reclamation preferences for the exploration area; and
6.    Submit a reclamation bond in an amount to be determined by the department.


It usually takes from one to two months for the department to approve an exploration permit application.  If the exploration project is on U.S. Forest Service or BLM land, the approval process can take longer since approval from these agencies is required before the exploration permit can be issued. 



Reclamation Bonding Requirements


The department sets the level of bonding for each exploration permit to cover the costs of plugging all proposed test holes and reclamation of affected public and private land.   In lieu of filing a reclamation bond for each exploration permit, the operator may post a $20,000 statewide surety to cover all exploration permits.  The reclamation bond must be deposited with the department before the operator begins exploration activities. 



Annual Report Requirements


For each exploration permit, an operator must submit an annual report of activities conducted under the permit to the department by January 1 of each year.  Every November, the department mails an annual report form for each permit to operators for completion.  Operators holding more than one permit may submit one annual report form describing activities conducted under all permits.  The completed annual report forms include the following information:


1.    The total number of drill holes, trenches, bulk sampling sites or shot holes allowed under the permit;
2.    The total number of drill holes, trenches, bulk sampling sites or shot holes completed during the previous year under the permit;
3.    The total amount of surface disturbance created as the result of conducting exploration activities under the permit;
4.    The total number of drill or shot holes plugged and reclaimed during the previous year, including the method used to plug each hole;
5.    The total amount of surface disturbance reclaimed during the previous year;
6.    The total amount of surface disturbance remaining to be reclaimed;
7.    The total number of drill or shot holes remaining to be plugged and reclaimed;
8.    A description of the coming year's activities to be conducted under the permit; and
9.    A map of sufficient detail that clearly shows the information required in the annual report. 



What Statutes and Regulations Govern Exploration Activities


Exploration for all minerals excluding uranium

The South Dakota Mineral Exploration Act (SDCL 45-6C) and the South Dakota Plugging Standards (ARSD 74:11:08)

Exploration for uranium

The South Dakota Uranium Exploration Act (SDCL 45-6D) and the South Dakota Plugging Standards (ARSD 74:11:08)



Exploration Permit Application and Other Forms


To download exploration permit application and other forms, please go to the exploration permit forms web page. If you cannot download the forms, please contact Eric Holm and the forms will be mailed to you.



Other Permits Required for Exploration Operations


To learn more about other permits that may be required for exploration operations, please go to the one stop permitting page.


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