The state Board of Minerals and Environment has postponed the rest of its hearings on the proposed Dewey-Burdock uranium mine until after the federal government and another state board release their decisions on the project.

The decision was released late Tuesday afternoon in an order signed by board chairman Rex Hagg, who also is a Rapid City attorney. It was released by the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

The order states the board will wait until the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency and the state Water Management Board have all ruled on Powertech Uranium Corp.'s mine applications.

Waiting for the other agencies will "significantly narrow the issues and grounds upon which the permit can be denied," Hagg wrote in the order.

Hagg couldn't be reached for comment by press time.

Reactions were mixed to the announcement.

"We're disappointed that they're not going to continue with hearings," said Mark Hollenbeck, project manager for Powertech and a rancher near Edgemont, which is near the proposed mining site.

But Hollenbeck pointed to other decisions in the ruling that were favorable to Powertech, namely that the board rejected two motions from uranium opponents to dent or dismiss the company's application. 

Bruce Ellison, an attorney for Clean Water Alliance, which is opposing the mine, called the board's action "appropriate." Ellison said the delay will give the board more information on how it is able to rule on the mine.

Ellison said the Water Management Board should also consider delaying the rest of its hearings until federal agencies make their decisions.

"I think it may be appropriate for them to do something like that," he said.

Hollenbeck said he expects the NRC, which has already issued a draft license for Dewey-Burdock, to decide by year's end. The EPA hasn't set a schedule for its decision, he added, but is going to hold hearings in Edgemont before it rules.

The proposed Dewey-Burdock mine, which would be about 15 miles northwest of Edgemont, would employ in-situ mining — meaning the company would inject oxygenated water into the ground to absorb uranium. The water would then be pumped back to the surface, where the uranium would be extracted and processed.

In order for the mine to go forward, Powertech needs approval from both state boards, the NRC and EPA, and the Bureau of Land Management.

Contact Joe O'Sullivan at 394-8414 or