Opponents of uranium mine cite water concerns at hearing

Posted May 9

— Water quality is a major concern for opponents of a proposed uranium mine in southwest South Dakota.

Some opponents argued during a public hearing Monday that the proposed Powertech mine is within the boundaries of an area meant for the Great Sioux Nation and that the U.S. doesn't have water or mineral rights there, The Rapid City Journal ( ) reported. Others fear the mine will pollute groundwater.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which hosted the hearing, has issued two draft permits to Powertech for the mine. The agency is taking public comments until May 19 before making a final decision.

Groundwater at the mining site would be used to leach uranium deposits from rocks in a process known as "in situ" mining. The water would then be treated to remove radioactive and other hazardous substances before being injected back into aquifers underground. The process' byproduct would be disposed into wells about 2,000 feet below the ground surface.

If approved, the proposal would allow Powertech to create up to 4,000 production wells and to inject waste fluid through as many as four deep well disposals.

"In situ leaching will allow poisons into our Black Hills aquifers," Carol Hayse of rural Nemo said during the public hearing Monday.

Rapid City rancher Marvin Kammerer said groundwater is precious in the drought-prone plains. He said the water should be protected for use by local residents, not by outside corporations. He argued that despite treatment, the water would still be polluted — and he asked EPA and company officials if they would drink the water.

"I would be glad to drink the treated water after it comes out of the plant," said Mark Hollenbeck, project director for Powertech.

Hollenbeck said most of the comments did not directly address the permits.

"They've just expressed a general disdain for uranium mining," he said.

If Powertech's EPA permits are finalized, the company would need additional permits before it could start mining.


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