Canadian mining company PowerTech held another dog-and-pony show on May 22 in Custer to promote its plan to squirt uranium out of the ground in Custer and Fall River counties. The Custer County Chronicle reported that the project "could mean millions for the area." Carrie Moore's report also asserted that PowerTech's Dewey-Burdock project "has received a number of permits and approvals from state and federal groups, such as the Department of Natural Resources, Environmental Protection Agency and the NRC."
Concerned Custer citizen Juli Ames-Curtis challenges that soothing assertion:
I am not sure where the information came from that was stated in a recent article in the Custer Chronicle that the company has received a number of permits from state and federal agencies. Although Power Tech has a state permit for Uranium exploration, the company has not been granted any permits to mine uranium in the Dewey-Burdock area.
- The SD Water Board permit hearings are scheduled for the week of October 7, 2013 in Rapid City.
- The mining permit hearings are scheduled for the week of September 23rd, location to be determined.
- The ruling from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is not determined yet.
- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not made their decision to date.
- Permits are then required from Custer and Fall River County for construction of buildings, roads, waste water facilities.
This issue is not as cut and dry as PowerTech representatives would like us all to believe. There are serious and relevant questions on the usage of water, health issues, water and ground pollution, how many jobs will really be created for locals and how much money this project will truly bring to the area [Juli Ames-Curtis, e-mail, 2013.06.10].
The state's permit hearings have raised concerns among uranium mine opponents that the state is stacking the deck in favor of PowerTech. Hearing board chairman Rex Hagg has scheduled the mining permit hearing for September 23-27, just a couple weeks before PowerTech's water permit hearing. Hagg wants to hold the mining permit hearing in Pierre instead of in the Black Hills, where the water permit will be heard. Opponents say that scheduling and location puts undue pressure on citizen activists who may not be able to take time off work for a trip to Pierre and who need more turnaround time between hearings to properly research and prepare their arguments.
Perhaps worth noting: Rex Hagg is a former Republican legislator from Rapid City. He served at the same time as his then cross-town neighbor Mark Hollenbeck, who is now PowerTech's project manager in South Dakota.