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In this 2007 photo, the site of an abandoned open pit uranium mine, near Edgemont is shown. Two federal agencies must approve a proposed uranium mine in the Black Hills before a South Dakota board further considers issuing a permit, its hearing chairman said Tuesday, citing a state law. (AP Photo/Carson Walker)

Uranium mine hearing delayed for agencies’ OK

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By Carson Walker

Two federal agencies must approve a proposed uranium mine in the Black Hills before a South Dakota board further considers issuing a permit, its hearing chairman said Tuesday, citing a state law.

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The South Dakota Board of Minerals and Environment postponed a second Rapid City permit hearing for Powertech Uranium Corp.’s application for a large-scale mine permit at its Dewey-Burdock mine near Edgemont. The first hearing was held Sept. 23-27. The second was set for Nov. 11-15.

An order issued Tuesday by Rex Hagg, hearing chairman, said the board will not reschedule the state hearing until the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have ruled on the project and established financial surety. The state Water Management Board also must first allocate water rights, he wrote.

Hagg, a Rapid City attorney, wrote in his order that state law allows the minerals board to grant a permit only if the project complies with “all applicable local, state, and federal laws,” so the other agencies must act first.

“Powertech may expect that the BME will act timely upon receipt of such decisions,” Hagg wrote in his four-page order.

When reached by phone late Tuesday, he said he couldn’t comment further because it’s a contested case hearing similar to a court trial.

Powertech project manager Mark Hollenbeck, of Edgemont, said he’s disappointed in the delay and believes the board could have proceeded. But it does mean that when the minerals hearing resumes, the only main issue will be how the company will reclaim the land.

He said reclamation would be minimal because the mine will use in-situ recovery, which involves pumping water fortified with oxygen and carbon dioxide into underground ore deposits to dissolve the uranium.

AP file photo

In this March 28, 2007, photograph, the site of an abandoned open pit uranium mine near Edgemont is shown.

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