PIERRE | A company that wants to extract uranium in Fall River County should get a conditional mining permit from the state, according to a recommendation by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
Now, it will be up to the Board of Minerals and Environment to determine whether the state grants the permit to Powertech USA Inc.
If approved, it would be one of the permits the Canadian-based company needs to mine for uranium in southwestern South Dakota where it is being opposed by groups and individuals who fear it will deplete and pollute water resources with its system of injection-extraction wells that dissolve and capture uranium from underground formations.
The primary permitting responsibility for the in situ mining operation is with the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency.
In 2011, the Legislature suspended the application of South Dakota’s rules for the type of uranium mining that Powertech wants to do in a 10,580-acre area about 13 miles north of Edgemont.
The Legislature said the authority would rest with the federal commission instead, a measure that was sought by Powertech.
For its part, the Board of Minerals and Environment must consider whether to issue a conditional mining permit that includes environmental safeguards and requires the land be reclaimed to a beneficial use.
Federal regulators, meanwhile, would evaluate uranium-processing facilities, groundwater restoration, well fields, the construction and monitoring of the wells, and detection and countering of excursions of mining solution.
A Monday deadline has been set to file to intervene in the state board’s hearing process. Board member Rex Hagg, a Rapid City lawyer, will serve as the hearing chairman. He is expected to hold a conference, likely in May, on scheduling and other matters related to a hearing.
On Thursday, Board of Minerals and Environment members talked about the work awaiting them in the months ahead, including a week-long hearing at some point.
Their discussion came before the end of a regular board meeting. An attorney for Powertech, Max Main of Belle Fourche, had just finished an unrelated matter before the board.
Main said the state Board of Water Management, which is handling Powertech’s applications for water rights permits and groundwater discharge permits, had more than 300 people sign up to intervene. He said 28 have elected to be full participants.
The water board scheduled a week for its hearing on the water permits from Oct. 7-11. In case more time is needed, the hearing would resume the week of Oct. 28. The hearing will be held in Rapid City at the Best Western Ramkota conference center.