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State Water Management Board Revisits Uranium Mining Issue Today

April 2, 2008

Rapid City, SD – Protecting their state's underground water supply is a major concern for South Dakota residents opposed to uranium mining in the southwest part of the state. A special hearing called by the South Dakota Water Management Board in Rapid City today is taking more public testimony on such proposed uranium mining.

Shirley Frederick, who chairs the Black Hills Group of the Sierra Club, says the so-called in situ leech mining process that would be used by mining company Powertech poses a water quality threat.

"The industry is going to make it sound like some solution will be pumped into the aquifer and the uranium will be pumped out and we'll all be better off. What they don't talk about is all the ways that the process can go wrong, and has gone wrong in other states such as Texas, Nebraska and Wyoming, where the solution escapes from the mining area and contaminates the water."

Company officials say they have a good track record and that their mining process is clean and safe. Frederick calls the claims "company hype."

"If people don't believe that they should look at what's going on over in Wyoming right now with the Smith-Highland ranch. That's been pointed out by Powertech as a model operation, and they have been in operation for a number of years. They've been cited by the Department of Environmental Quality in Wyoming for numerous violations of their permit and for failure to safeguard the environment. It's not a safe process, no matter what the industry says."

Frederick is concerned that South Dakota residents need time to learn more about this kind of mining. She says today's hearing is important because the South Dakota Water Management Board will decide the rules that mining companies must follow.

David Law/Don Mathisen, Public News Service - SD