Powertech Uranium Gets Permit to Look for Uranium in Southwestern Corner of South Dakota

Powertech Uranium Gets Permit to Look for Uranium in Southwestern Corner of South Dakota

Powertech Uranium Corp. has received a state permit to drill 155 exploratory holes to look for uranium in the southwestern corner of South Dakota.

Approval of the permit Wednesday by the state Board of Minerals and Environment is the first uranium exploration permit issued in more than 25 years.

Powertech president Richard Clement said his company hopes to recover 7.6 million pounds of uranium from the Dewey and Burdock areas, about 13 miles north of Edgemont in the southwestern corner of the Black Hills.

Clement said the operation could employ between 100 and 150 people.

Charmaine White Face, of the group Defenders of the Black Hills, urged the board to protect “Mother Earth” by denying the permit.

“She is alive, and when you drill these holes in her, you are hurting her,” White Face said at the hearing.

“Your testimony was very moving,” board chairman Richard Sweetman of Sioux Falls told White Face. “I think I understand what you were saying.”

But Sweetman said Powertech Uranium Corp. met all of the state’s criteria for the exploration permit.

Powertech also has interests in Weston County, Wyo., just across the state line, and near Aladdin, Wyo.

Pressure to develop domestic energy sources has driven the price of uranium from $7 or $8 a pound seven years ago to $72 a pound today, Clement said. At that price, 7.6 million pounds would bring $547.2 million.

There are three long-abandoned uranium surface mines in the Dewey-Burdock area, but Powertech will use “solution mining” — pumping a solution into deep holes to dissolve uranium, then pumping the “pregnant” solution out another set of holes.

The process — also called in situ leach mining — is used elsewhere, but has never been used in South Dakota.

The Board of Minerals and Environment scheduled a meeting Thursday to work out new in situ mining regulations that were ordered last year by the state Legislature.

Dick Fort of Lawrence County, who is founder of ACTion for the Environment, opposed the exploratory permits and tried to persuade the minerals board to postpone approving them until after the new regulations were adopted.

The new mining rules might affect the way exploration is carried out, he said. “What’s the big hurry?” he asked.

Deputy attorney general Roxanne Giedd said the new mining rules would have no impact on exploration and that Powertech had met all state requirements for an exploration permit.

The company will post a $213,500 bond to guarantee reclamation of the exploration holes, which will be 400-600 feet deep.

Information from: Rapid City Journal, http://www.rapidcityjournal.com

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