A proposed uranium mine that would rely on South Dakota water faces a court challenge

Capitol News Bureau
KELO Pierre map locator South Dakota

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Federal well permits for a project down in the southwestern corner of South Dakota that would inject water underground to dissolve uranium, and then pump the solution to the surface for processing, appear headed into a federal court.

Bruce Ellison, a Rapid City lawyer representing Clean Water Alliance, said Thursday that permits the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued November 24 for the Powertech mine would be contested. His comments came during a discussion by the state Board of Minerals and Environment.

Ellison said he and likely others interested in the matter would appreciate receiving notice when the board plans to receive updates. Board chairman Rex Hagg of Rapid City agreed that a heads-up would be good. “You are part of the litigation,” Hagg told Ellison.

The minerals board had a hearing in progress on Powertech’s application for a state mine permit in 2013, but Hagg deferred further consideration until after the project received federal permits and state Water Management Board permits. The water board also put its hearing on hold.

The project is proposed about 13 miles northwest of Edgemont in the Dewey-Burdock area of Custer and Fall River counties.

Roberta Hudson from the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources provided the minerals board with the update Thursday.

She said the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensed the project in 2014 and amended the license in 2016. A challenge from the Oglala Sioux Tribe was denied October 8.

Beside the plan to contest the EPA injection-well permits, the federal Bureau of Land Management hasn’t yet issued a permit for its property within the project area.

Hagg said he didn’t intend Thursday to have any debate on the merits of the project. He noted the board had some different members now.

“No action will be taken today on anything,” Hagg said.

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