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Conservation Group Tracking S.Dak Uranium Exploration

January 2, 2009

Rapid City, SD - Environmental and conservation groups, including the Sierra Club of South Dakota, warn that water pollution will be a major concern if the Canadian-based mining company Powertech USA is given a state permit to mine for uranium near Edgemont.

Shirley Frederick, with the Sierra Club's Black Hills Group, says there's a high likelihood that aquifers will become polluted if an injection-well recovery system is used to mine the ore.

"Powertech is going to do in situ leach uranium mining. They inject a solution into an aquifer and dissolve the uranium in the aquifer; then they remove the solution, extract the uranium, re-inject the solution, and that becomes a closed loop. It's a huge potential for contamination of the aquifer."

The mining industry insists the process is safe, and that pollution would be unlikely. Frederick agrees the new methods are safer than the open-pit mining of years ago that left the environment openly exposed. However, she says, aquifer pollution remains a concern, so she cautions South Dakota residents to stay on top of the issue.

"The water belongs to the people of South Dakota. So, it's important that the people be aware of the potential for contamination of the aquifer and how that would affect our economy. The big concern is down the road, when Powertech comes back to the state and asks for permission to mine. That will be a very big issue and there will be a lot of discussion about that."

Fredrick says there are also tribal issues involving the potential for downstream pollution and the disruption of sacred sites. She expects Powertech to apply for a uranium mining permit sometime this year.

David Law, Public News Service - SD