Posted 12 months ago
By John Axtell
The South Dakota Board of Minerals and Environment has decided to postpone its second week-long hearing on water permits Powertech Uranium’s proposed Dewey-Burdock mine near Edgemont until other agencies complete work on other permits.
The Minerals board held a week of hearings in Rapid City in September was to begin a set second, also in Rapid City, next Monday, but chairman Rex Hagg signed an order Tuesday postponing them until the state Water Management Board, the EPA, and the Federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission release their decisions.
Hagg says waiting until the other permits are decided will “significantly narrow the issues and grounds upon which the permit can be denied”…streamlining the remaining hearings and giving the Water board much clearer issues to decide.
The Water board held a week of hearings in Rapid City on water permits for the mine last week and is scheduled to begin another set on December 9th.
The NRC has issued a draft license for the Dewey-Burdock mine and its website has an application review schedule with targets of issuing a final environmental impact statement to the EPA this month and completing licensing action next month, but hearings are expected on both and none are listed on the agency’s calendar.
Haag’s order delaying the hearings also rejected a pair of challenges from opponents, with the overall result being that both sides being generally satisfied with the moves.
Attorney Bruce Ellison, who represents one of the leading opposition groups, thinks the state Minerals board should also delay next week’s hearings and its decision until after the federal permits are approved or denied.
Powertech submitted its NRC application for the project in August 2009. The mine would use the in-situ method, which injects a chemical solution similar to bicarbonate of soda into the aquifer to release uranium molecules into the water, which is pumped out and processed.
The company also plans to use the $51-million dollar Dewey-Burdock project to mine for vanadium, a key ingredient of many modern steels.
Opponents says the chances of contaminating usable aquifers and of health risks are too great. Supporters says in-situ is the safest form of mining and that the Powertech project would be a much-needed economic boost to the Southern Black Hills.