The fight over a proposed uranium mine in the Edgemont area will come to Rapid City in September for a hearing on a state permit the project needs to proceed.
The South Dakota Board of Minerals and the Environment will open its hearing Sept. 23 on whether to grant a large-scale mining permit to Powertech Uranium for its proposed mine near Edgemont.
Board member Rex Hagg, a Rapid City lawyer who is the hearing chairman, said Wednesday the hearing typically would be held in Pierre, where the Department of Environment and Natural Resources has its headquarters. But he moved the meeting to Rapid City to accommodate interested parties who sought the change.
"We understand it's a big deal, and there's a lot of interest in this out there," he said.
The hearing will begin at 8:30 a.m. Sept. 23 at the Best Western Ramkota Hotel & Convention Center, 2111 N. Lacrosse St., and could last several days.
Rebecca Leas of Rapid City, a member of the Dakota Rural Action agricultural and conservation group, said in a news release Wednesday that the board made the right choice in setting the hearing in Rapid City.
"I am very happy about the site being changed to Rapid City to accommodate the many working people, families, ranchers and citizens who want to have a say and be present for the large-scale mine permit hearing," Leas said.
The state mining permit is one of several Powertech needs to construct a mining operation designed to extract dissolved uranium through an injection-extraction well system. It will not use the open strip mines of past uranium mines in western South Dakota.
The mine will use water, however, to extract the uranium. As a result, Powertech also needs two water permits from the state, as well as an approved groundwater discharge plan. It also needs federal permits from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Mark Hollenbeck, manager of Powertech's proposed Dewey-Burdock Project northwest of Edgemont, said the company has already received preliminary federal licensing and expects the actual license later this year.
The hearings on the state large-scale mining permit in September will be followed by a hearing by the state Water Management Board on the water permits in October. The water rights hearing begins Oct. 7, also at the Ramkota in Rapid City.
Hollenbeck said he is ready to present the company's case for the project.
"This is where we've been working to get to, and we finally get to present our case to a quasi-judicial board that judges our facts," he said.
Environmental specialist for the DENR staff have recommended approval for the water rights and the large-scale mining permits. But it is up to the two citizens boards to grant or deny the permits.