Powertech Can File To Resume State Permit Process For Edgemont Uranium Mine, But No Guarantee On Answer

Dewey Burdock

     The South Dakota Water Management Board has given Powertech the ok to file a motion to start the state permitting process again for its proposed Dewey Burdock uranium mine north of Edgemont. 

      The action, which followed a status hearing on Wednesday, does not commit the board to resuming the process because it could say no to the motion. 

      All parties had agreed several years ago to table the state process and resume it only if Powertech got approval for all the federal permits needed for the project. 

      The federal permits were approved last year, but are under appeal and opponents told the water board that action on the state permits should remain tabled until the federal appeals 

     Both Powertech, now a subsidiary of Canada-based Azarga Uranium, and the Black Hills Clean Water Alliance – one of the key intervenors in both the state and federal permit cases – made presentations during the status hearing. 

      Much of the opponents’ time focused on in-situ heap mining, the method that would be used by the mine, and whether it’s safe or poses a long-term threat to groundwater in the area.

      In-situ mining pumps a chemical solution similar to bicarbonate of soda into the aquifer to dissolve uranium from the surrounding rock with water pumped back to the surface to process out the ore. 

     Clean Water Alliance Leader Dr Lilas Jarding argued that a mined aquifer has never been fully restored, meaning the aquifers the mine would use could never again be used for domestic consumption. 

     Opponents also said the amount of water needed, up to 9,000 gallons a minute, would be detrimental to agriculture and fighting wildfires. The company said nearly all the water used is recycled back