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Uranium mine permit process grinds forward

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news Mitchell, 57301
Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

PIERRE -- The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources has released its recommendation regarding a mining permit for Powertech's uranium project.

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The permit should be issued, DENR said in a notice filed this week. The decision whether that happens, however, is up to the state Board of Minerals and Environment.

The board's decision won't be the final word, either. The project's mining permit hinges on the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

In 2011, the Legislature suspended the application of South Dakota's rules for the type of uranium mining that Powertech wants to use in a 10,580-acre area about 13 miles north of Edgemont.

The Legislature said the authority would rest with the federal commission instead. That was done at Powertech's request.

Powertech wants to use a process known as in situ mining. It involves a system of wells injecting into the ground a solution of water and one or more other substances, in this case water containing additional amounts of oxygen and carbon dioxide.

The solution dissolves uranium. The solution is brought back to the surface through recovery wells and the uranium is removed.

The state board must consider whether to issue a conditional mining permit. The permit would include environmental safeguards during and after the operation and require the land to be reclaimed to a beneficial use afterward.

The state board won't consider the elements of the mine that would be under the federal regulation.

Those include uranium processing facilities, ground water restoration, well fields, construction and monitoring of the wells, detection of excursions of mining solution and countering the excursions.

People and organizations have an April 22 deadline to file to intervene in the board's hearing and decision process. Board member Rex Hagg, a Rapid City lawyer, will serve as hearing chairman. Hagg will hold a conference, likely in May, on scheduling and other matters related to a hearing.

The board hasn't set a hearing date yet.

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