NEW TOWN, N.D. (AP) — Oil production on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota has become so large that it would rank among the top 10 oil producing states in the nation, a tribal leader said Tuesday.
Tex Hall, chairman of the Three Affiliated Tribes — Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara — said the more than 1,000 wells in the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation produce in excess of 180,000 barrels of oil a day. Compared directly with state production, that puts them among the top 10 oil producers in the nation.
"It's a modern day gold rush. It's a modern day Deadwood, South Dakota," he said in a video statement that was broadcast at the tribe's third annual oil and gas expo at the 4 Bears Casino in New Town, North Dakota.
The tribe's production levels represent about one-fifth of the total oil output in North Dakota, which is ranked second in oil production, trailing only Texas. North Dakota is poised to hit production levels of one million barrels of oil per day by June.
In January, wells on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation produced more than 162,000 barrels of oil per day, according to the latest production figures available on the tribes' website. That figure was higher than production in Kansas, which is the 10th biggest oil-producing state.
Hall did not say how much money the tribes have made from the oil production, but North Dakota state Tax Department records show that the tribe received $131.8 million in fiscal 2013 as its share of revenue under an agreement with the state.
North Dakota U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp, applauded the tribes' oil development.
"Energy development is a critical tool for tribal economic development. It gives tribes the means to improve the safety of their communities, create affordable housing options and tackle education and health disparities," she said in a statement.
Hall noted that the future of the tribes lies not only in oil production, but also in energy generation, such as capturing natural gas. North Dakota drillers currently burn off, or flare, more than 30 percent of the valuable gas — compared to the national average of less than 1 percent — because the development of gas pipelines and processing facilities hasn't kept pace with oil drilling.