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Powertech Fails to Answer Safety Questions; Feds Suspend Black Hills Mining Review

No wonder Powertech was so eager to eliminate South Dakota's permitting authority over uranium mining: Powertech can't survive regulatory scrutiny. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has suspended its safety review of Powertech's proposed uranium mining operation in the southern Black Hills, because Powertech failed to answer public health and safety questions:

The letter said Powertech couldn't adequately explain how it would contain uranium production fluids at the mine site and keep surface water free of contamination.

"We believe that proceeding with the review at this time is not the most effective use of scarce resources," because Powertech's responses to the NRC's requests for additional information about public health and safety provisions were inadequate [Bobby Magill, "Feds Suspend Powertech Uranium Mine Permitting," The Coloradoan (Fort Collins, CO), 2011.05.10].

Powertech's failure before the NRC resembles its failure before South Dakota's regulators, who twice rejected as incomplete Powertech applications for uranium mining. Powertech says they'll have answers ready for the NRC by the end of June, but they are having to put a similar mining proposal in Colorado on hold to do the necessary safety assessment. Evidently Powertech was right when they said having to answer questions from our DENR is just too burdensome for their business model... which apparently depends on not having to answer the public's very reasonable questions.

The Defenders of the Black Hills are pleased:

We are thankful as well as for all the prayers to protect Grandmother Earth and stop the uranium mining off the southwest corner of the Black Hills. Although the process isn't totally stopped, as there are still two parts the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will still be considering, cultural sites for one, their recent decision helps slow down the process considerably. Powertech tried to bypass the SD Department of Environment and Natural Resources questions by getting the greedy SD legislature to pass SB 158, but now the NRC has stopped Powertech.

It is a very good day! [Charmaine White Face, Defenders of the Black Hills, 2011.05.10]

The Coloradoan article also notes that the Denver District Court has thrown out two of the four arguments in Powertech's lawsuit to evade Colorado's mining regulations. In one defeated claim, Powertech complained that Colorado lawmakers violated the state constitution by communicating with the state mine reclamation about ways to implement uranium contamination rules the legislators were supporting.

Just for comparison, here in South Dakota, the legislation favoring Powertech's desire to evade public scrutiny was eagerly supported by anti-environmental lawyer Rep. Lance Russell (R-30/Hot Springs). Just last November, Rep. Russell's mother, Carolyn Fines, inherited from a special friend a nice chunk of land in the southern Black Hills, one tract of which (in the NE 1/4 of Section 12, Township 7 South, Range 1 East) includes $95,000 worth of Powertech mining leases. Powertech has no complaint about that seeming conflict of interest. Perhaps the rest of us should.


  1. larry kurtz 2011.05.11

    Guggenheimer is hosting a great show on Bill Janklow's idea of public radio about cleaning up the chemical toilet.

  2. caheidelberger Post author | 2011.05.11

    Good NSN link, Larry! I'm listening to the SDPB discussion right now. What a terrible mess! Perhaps we should declare a moratorium on any further mining in the Black Hills until all current mining pollution is cleaned up.

  3. larry kurtz 2011.05.11

    If only we Democrats had the power to name you King of South Dakota! The best time to clean up these systems is when metals prices are spiking as they are now.

    Make it so, your majesty.

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