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SD uranium mine opponents unhappy with rulings

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RAPID CITY (AP) -- Groups concerned about the impact of proposed uranium mining in the Black Hills of western South Dakota are unhappy with rulings issued in advance of state public hearings next week.

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The state Board of Minerals and Environment and the Water Management Board each have rejected a motion to delay the state permit hearings in Rapid City until after federal agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission decide whether to approve Powertech Uranium Corp.'s plans.

The decision pleased Powertech, which contends that the strategy of opponents is "death by delay," according to project manager Mark Hollenbeck.

"We get to present the science," he said. "There's been an awful lot of emotion over the last few weeks, but, starting on Monday, we start with the science. And we're very confident that our science is going to hold up. And that we are going to follow the law. And this is going to be a great, safe project for the state of South Dakota."

Opponents worry the proposed mine near Edgemont might damage underground water supplies, a fear Powertech officials say is unfounded.

Board officials also have decided to limit public testimony to two hours, and they have refused to place on the official record a resolution by the Rapid City Council expressing concern over the project. Clean Water Action attorney Bruce Ellison said the amount of time for testimony will make it difficult for everyone to speak on the issue. Rapid City leaders say they plan to appeal the decision regarding their resolution.

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