EPA uranium hearings: A tale of two cities – by John D. Taylor (Rapid City Journal – May 16, 2017)


HOT SPRINGS – On a gray Wednesday when a little mni wichoni (Lakota for life-giving water) was falling from the skies, a group of about 40 protesters marched from Centennial Park to the Mueller Center shouting “Mni Wichoni, water is life,” and “No uranium mining in the Black Hills,” along the way.

The protesters – including Sarah Peterson and Mary Helen Pederson, from the local group, It’s All About the Water, as well as a contingent of Oglala Lakota elders, children and adults from Pine Ridge, Rapid City and other locations, along with a veterans group, all part of the Clean Water Alliance of the Black Hills – were concerned about the threats they believe AzaragaUranium/Powertech’s plans for the Dewey Burdock in situ leaching uranium mining project will bring to the area, particularly the dry region’s water resources.

After praying, the contingent descended on the Mueller Center to share their concerns about the project with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), at the fourth of five scheduled public hearings EPA would hold on the company’s plans and the two draft permits the agency has issued to Azarga/Powertech, along with the Clean Water Act exemption the one permit will require.

The issue

Azarga/Powertech wants to receive two final permits from EPA that would be another step forward for the company to begin its Dewey Burdock project:

• One permit would be a Class III Underground Injection Control (UIC) permit. This would allow Azarga/Powertech to drill some 4,000 injection wells that would be used to mine the uranium the company says is in Dewey Burdock. In situ mining involves injecting a solution of groundwater mixed with extra oxygen and carbon dioxide into uranium deposits.

This dissolves uranium in the rock underground. The slurry is then pumped back up to the surface, the uranium removed, then “recycled” by sending it back into the ground to dissolve more uranium again and again and again.

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