Proposed western SD uranium mine clears hurdle
RAPID CITY (AP) — The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued an operating license for a proposed uranium mine in western South Dakota's Black Hills, though it isn't the only hurdle for the project and opponents say they'll fight the move.
The federal commission said in a statement that a review "concluded the proposed facility can operate safely, including management of radiological and chemical hazards, groundwater protection, and eventual cleanup and decommissioning."
"We certainly expected this," said Mark Hollenbeck, project director for Powertech Uranium Corp. "We have confidence in our science and we had confidence in our team putting together the applications."
Opponents said they would ask a judge to issue a stay against the license.
"Just because a pro-nuclear agency has given this a green light doesn't mean it's a good idea," Lilias Jarding with Clean Water Alliance told the Rapid City Journal.
Hollenbeck called the NRC permit a "milestone," but Powertech Uranium still needs approval from the federal Environmental Protection Agency and South Dakota before it can move forward with the Dewey-Burdock mine near Edgemont. The mine, which would sit within a 17-square-mile site, is projected to recover 1 million pounds of uranium annually for eight years.
Opponents fear the mine would pollute the environment and upset American Indian burial grounds. Supporters dispute that and say the mine would bring jobs to the area and tax revenue to the region and state.
Hollenbeck said the EPA has indicated it will issue a draft permit sometime this month and take public comment. The state Board of Minerals and Environment and the state Water Management Board suspended hearings late last year until the federal agencies make decisions.
NRC said in its Tuesday statement that the Powertech license is only the fourth such license it has issued since 1998.
Powertech is in the process of merging with its largest shareholder, Azarga Resources Limited. The new company will be known as Azarga Uranium Corp.