Saturday, June 20, 2009

South Dakota Uranium Mine Request Deficient

By Carson Walker
Sioux Falls, South Dakota (AP) 6-09

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has told the Canadian developer of a planned uranium mine in southwest South Dakota that it must fix several deficiencies in its application or the proposal will be rejected.

Powertech Uranium Corp. is operating under a state permit to drill exploratory holes and hopes to start mining in 2011 near Edgemont if it can get all the required federal and state permits.

NRC spokesman David McIntyre said the agency met with the company. He said Powertech indicated that within a week, it will indicate if it plans to withdraw the application, fix the problems and resubmit it or wait for the NRC to reject the current request.

It’s not a fatal blow, but it could delay the project that seeks to take advantage of higher uranium prices, he said.

“This is by no means the NRC saying, ‘You can never recover uranium at this site.’ This is us saying, ‘You haven’t given us enough information,”’ McIntyre said.

Powertech has a corporate office in Vancouver, British Columbia, and operations Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico, as well as the Dewey Burdock project in South Dakota.

The company wants to inject chemically treated water into holes to dissolve the uranium, then pump out the solution and collect the uranium for processing. Company representatives said the so-called in situ leach-mining process is safe and does not cause contamination.

But some environmental and American Indian groups oppose the project for fear it would harm underground aquifers and disturb archaeological sites. The land is about 60 miles from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and lies on the southern edge of the Black Hills, which Indians consider sacred.

McIntyre said two of the four primary deficiencies deal with water. Powertech must show more clearly that the rock formations in the area would protect groundwater from chemical contamination through the drilling process or seismic faults, he said.

“Anything that could affect the flow of the water or how the drilling could affect the flow of the water,” McIntyre said. “The application doesn’t address it fully.”

The company also must give more specifics on how it would dispose of waste at the mining site and how the mine would operate, he said.

Mark Hollenbeck, project manager of the Dewey Burdock project, said the company’s management is studying the NRC’s request for more information and plans to release the company’s decision on how to proceed early next week.

“But we don’t anticipate any significant delay in the process,” he said.

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