Powertech Questions LogoIt's hard to tell whether South Dakota is dealing with Powertech Uranium Corporation or the Riddler. Joe O'Sullivan reports that two weeks of public hearings on the Canadian-Chinese corporations plan to squirt uranium out from under the Black Hills and leave us with the mess has raised all sorts of questions, like...

How clean will Powertech make the water it uses and returns to the ground?

Under questioning, [Powertech VP of engineering] Mays refused to commit Powertech to cleaning water in the mining area to its pre-mining condition. Mays said it was a primary goal, but not a requirement [Joe O'Sullivan, "Uranium Mine Hearings Reveal Questions about Proposed Project," Rapid City Journal, 2013.11.03].

What contaminants will be leaving in the water if Powertech don't fully clean it?

Mays testified that only uranium and vanadium — another metal the company hopes to mine — are certain to circulate in and out of the ground. As for arsenic, selenium, molybdenum, and other potentially harmful metals, Mays wouldn't say.

"What you're telling this board is that you don't really know what's in that ore yet?" Bruce Ellison asked Mays. Ellison is an attorney for Clean Water Alliance, a group of mining opponents. "You haven't done enough testing?"

Mays said those metals could turn up, but "we don't know exactly" [O'Sullivan, 2013.11.03].

Will Powertech cause the kind of pollution seen at other in-situ mining sites?

Powertech attorney Max Main has objected to examples of other in situ mine violations being brought up in the hearing [O'Sullivan, 2013.11.03].

How much water is Powertech going to use?

Opponents spent part of the hearing noting the different numbers Powertech has given. For example, the company is requesting state permission to use up to 8,500 gallons per minute of water. But in describing the mining operation to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the company said it needed only 4,000 gallons per minute [O'Sullivan, 2013.11.03].

How many jobs will Powertech create?

So, too, the amount of uranium mined and the numbers of jobs Dewey-Burdock would create have changed. Mining opponents argue that this means the company's application is incomplete and should be rejected.

Powertech officials explained this as a routine changing of projections as the company tweaks its business plan [O'Sullivan, 2013.11.03].

Perhaps it's unfair to throw all these questions in the way of good capitalists just trying to make a loonie/ruble/yuan. But we are talking about uranium, the kind of stuff that terrorists could build dirty bombs with. If you're handling uranium, you need to know your stuff. If you can't answer the basic questions posed at a South Dakota environmental hearing, maybe you shouldn't be in the uranium business.