Water Management Board hearing on uranium mining in the Black Hills
PIERRE, S.D. — Uranium mining has been the big topic of discussion in Pierre recently.
The Water Management Board (WMB) discussed permits for Powertech Azarga, a company that wants to mine uranium in Custer and Fall River counties. During the meeting, both the company and the Black Hills Clean Water Alliance gave status reviews. Powertech right now has three of the seven permits it needs, but those are either under appeal or tied up in a lawsuit. Wednesdays session of the WMB gave the company and opponents a chance to make their case.
“It’s radioactive and toxic, and it has to be done directly in a ground water aquifer,” said alliance member Dr. Lilias Jarding. “So, wherever that aquifer moves, there is the potential for the waste water, the contaminated water from the mine to move that direction also.”
Dr. Jarding says mining could greatly affect the quality of water for individual use and agriculture.
“The ruling by the environmental protection agency would have to be that this water could never be used for domestic use ever again,” said Dr. Jarding. “So, that means there’s a whole aquifer in that area of the black hills that people would be shut out of using.”
The amount of unusable water would be significant to the Black Hills. The company would use nearly 9,000 gallons of water per minute, more than 2,000 gallons more than Rapid City uses. That could be detrimental, given the potential for wildfires, and the importance of agriculture. After much discussion, the WMB has decided that Powertech can file a motion to start the permitting process again. The company needs to procure additional permits, so even if approved, the project is not expected to start for quite some time.