I put an advertisement in the Feb. 11, 2014 Hot Springs Star and the Rapid City Journal, asking participants if they “support,” “object to,” or are “undecided about” ‘in situ’ uranium mining in the Black Hills. I received a total of 55 responses:
Four respondents, or 7.3 percent said they “support,” while 51 (92.7 percent) “object to.”
In the same Star issue, Senator Bruce Rampelberg wrote: “… make decisions that represent the majority of people in District 30.” Also in the same issue, Representative Lance Russell wrote: “Thank you for the opportunity to represent your interest in the House of Representatives.” In the Feb. 25 Star, Representative Mike Verchio wrote: “HB1193, a bill that sought to further delay or stop the ‘Power Tech’ Uranium Mine was in committee… I testified against the bill...”
How can these three legislators publically support in situ uranium mining, whereas 92.7 of the people responding oppose it? A group of concerned citizens has 1,401 signatures opposing in situ uranium mining. It is time for the PEOPLE of Custer and Fall River Counties to vote the issue and for the legislators and the governor to abide by the results.
I oppose in situ uranium mining because:
• It will contaminate huge volumes of good water with heavy, toxic, and radioactive metals (e.g. radium). Very large volumes of contaminated wastewater from the ion exchange units will need disposal.
• The mining company stated that they will not clean up the site from previous mining. Thus will the tailing piles be leveled and farmed using center-pivot irrigation? Very large ponds would be required and waterfowl would drink the water. Seepage into alluvial (shallow aquifers) or flood conditions would carry the contaminated water into the Cheyenne River, Angostura, and the irrigation project (which is already mineralized and marginal for some crops).
• Deep-well injection of wastewater does not clean-up the waste water; it contaminates the injected aquifer with ever greater volumes. In order for a deep wastewater well to accept the very large volumes, it would likely need to be fracked.
• The hydrogen peroxide and carbonic acid used to solubilize the uranium from the base rock will continue to dissolve base rock and contaminate the aquifer long after the uranium is gone.
• The 4.5 percent mineral severance tax is too low. Half goes to the state and the remainder is again divided in half by Custer and Fall River Counties. Some of this tax money is slated for road repair in the mine area. North Dakota crude oil tax is 11.5 percent
• Will contaminated wastewater in the aquifers deter future higher value oil/gas development?
Make no mistake, the Governor of South Dakota will make the final decision about in situ uranium mining in the Black Hills. Reportedly, the Governor sent a letter to the US DOE asking for a grant for SDSMT to determine a possible uranium waste site in southwestern SD.
During the 20-year project, 95,000,000,000 gallons would be pumped out of the ground, polluted and then pumped back into an aquifer to pollute more water.
Tom Cook holds a doctorate in chemistry and lives near the Cheyenne River southwest of Hot Springs.