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Uranium hearings scheduled

PIERRE -- The state board that will decide whether Powertech gets a state permit for mining uranium in southwestern South Dakota agreed Thursday the hearing should be held in two parts this fall, starting in September and resuming probably in November.

The split approach would let the Board of Minerals and Environment sandwich its proceeding around a separate but related hearing in October by the state Board of Water Management regarding water permits for Powertech.

The mining hearing will start Monday, Sept. 23, in Rapid City at the Best Western convention center. The originally scheduled time of 8:30 a.m. Mountain time, however, might be pushed back to 10 a.m.

The minerals board plans at this point to spend at least four days that week. The first day and possibly much or all of the second day would be spent receiving general comments from the public and sworn statements from as many as 77 limited participants who can be cross-examined.

From there, the board will proceed to opening statements from the company, state regulators and as many as 27 full participants who will have attorneys or are representing themselves. The current schedule calls for the evidence phase of the hearing to start on the third day if possible.

But several board members made clear in a discussion Thursday about the schedule they don't know what to expect. Neither did various lawyers who were present or on a speakerphone conference call with the board.

They hope to nail down more of the schedule when they talk again Aug. 15. Still unknown is when the hearing would resume in November and how many days would need to be scheduled in that second round.