Mining company moving ahead with South Dakota project


RAPID CITY (AP) – A Canadian corporation looking to open a uranium mine in South Dakota is resuming the permit process with the state, while opponents say the project will ruin the area.

Powertech Industries Inc., a subsidiary of Azarga Uranium based in British Columbia, Canada, first began applying for permits and licensing for the project in the southwestern part of the state in 2013, the Rapid City Journal reported Saturday.

The proposed project would use a mining process similar to fracking in which injection wells are used to pump groundwater fortified with oxygen and carbon dioxide into the ore deposits to dissolve uranium. That type of mining, known as in situ, requires large amounts of water, which Powertech needs permission from the state to use.

The company plans to use about 9,000 gallons per minute of water from two underground aquifers that also supply water to communities in Fall River and Custer counties, including Edgemont and Hot Springs. In comparison, the entire city of Rapid City uses around 6,500 gallons of water per minute.

Over the 16 years the project is proposed to last, the company will use over 52 million gallons of water. The project is anticipated to produce over 14 million pounds of uranium.

Opponents say the project will destroy the water supply for the southwestern portion of the state, where water scarcity is already an issue.

Susan Henderson, a rancher from Edgemont, said the project won’t benefit anyone in South Dakota and will “probably destroy” Fall River County. Henderson said no mining company has ever sufficiently restored an aquifer’s water quality after contaminating it and she does not have faith that Powertech would be the first.

The mining company is seeking a water rights permit from the state Water Management Board – the next step in the permitting process. The company did not respond to requests for comment from the Rapid City Journal.

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