Posted 11 months ago
By John Axtell
The public input portion of a 4-day public hearing in Rapid City on South Dakota state permits for a proposed uranium mine in the southern Black Hills north of Edgemont drew an audience of hundreds on Monday.
The state Board of Minerals and Environment reversed its earlier decision to limit testimony to just two hours and instead allowed more than three hours of input on the proposal by Canadian-owner Powertech Uranium for its $51-million dollar Dewey-Burdock in-situ leach uranium mine.
The public hearing resumes Tuesday at 8:30 at the Best Western Ramkota, but while the session is open to the public, active participation is limited to Powertech and the opponents who have been formally certified for the proceedings.
Sessions are also scheduled for Wednesday at the Ramkota and Thursday at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center Alpine Ponderosa Room. Both will begin at 8 am.
In-situ mining pumps a chemical solution similar to bicarbonate of soda into the groundwater, where it absorbs uranium from the surrounding soil. The water is then pumped out and the uranium removed.
More than three dozen members of the public from three states, including opponents of the Crow Butte uranium mine near Crawford, spoke against the Dewey-Burdock project on Monday.
Their arguments centered on fears the mining will contaminate aquifers and take badly-needed water from other uses, that limited state regulations can’t guarantee safe operation of the mine, and that by-products of the mining pose serious health risks.
Rapid City was allowed to enter a city council resolution against the project into the official record, as was passed last Friday by the South Dakota State Medical Association that cited health concers, but resolutions of support from Fall River County and others were also allowed.
Over a dozen Edgemont-area resident testified in favor of the board approving state permits. They pointed to the project’s expected economic impact on the local economy and the safety record of in-situ mining when compared to the more common open pit mining.
Even if the South Dakota state permits are approved, Powertech would still need to receive approval from the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission to be able to begin construction and operation of the mine.