HOT SPRINGS | Powertech’s proposed uranium mining project was generally seen as positive at a meeting Thursday night hosted by the Southern Hills Economic Development Corp.
“If you look at a map, taking in uranium, oil, gas and coal production, energy is all around us,” Benjamin Snow, president of the Rapid City Economic Development Corporation, said. “We support this project as being good for the entire region, which is interconnected.”
Among those speaking about the project, which would extract uranium through an in situ water-injection process, were Mark Hollenbeck, project manager for Powertech, Raymond Johnson, a hydro-geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, and Mike Cepak with the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
“We set this up as an educational opportunity,” said Cindy Turner, SHEDC director from Edgemont. “Hopefully this was a source of information, leading people to more informed decision making.”
Hollenbeck led a discussion on uranium and the in situ process, which extracts the element using water infused with oxygen and carbon dioxide injected into a well field and extracted through a central pump.
“It is really just a reversal of the process that got the uranium here in the first place,” Hollenbeck said, “when oxygenated water dissolved uranium from volcanic ash.”
Johnson spoke about the mining process and how monitoring wells are set up to detect any “detected excursions” when mining solution leaves the minefield away from the extraction well.
Johnson also said that he had conducted an independent water analysis on groundwater in the proposed mining area and said he “found no evidence of cross contamination of the aquifers.” He also said that groundwater in the area moves to the southwest and then curves around the southern end of the Black Hills “at about 6.7 feet per year, which means that groundwater flowing toward Edgemont would take more than 10,000 years to make the 13-mile trip.”
Cepak discussed the permitting processes that Powertech has gone through and those required before mining would begin. He noted that the two water-use permits for which Powertech has applied as well as its wastewater application permit will be discussed at a DENR Water Management Board in Rapid City the week of March 18.
“That board has the power to approve or deny any of the permits,” said Cepak, adding that the Environmental Protection Agency and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will weigh in on the proposal.
In addition to the water and wastewater permits, Powertech has a large scale mining permit application in with DENR. Cepak said that the hearing date on that application has not been set yet but could take place in May.