RAPID CITY — The South Dakota Water Management Board joined hundreds of other entities Monday when it cancelled its plans following the weekend storm that buried the Black Hills in more than five feet of snow and left thousands without power.
The water management board postponed the second week of Powertech USA’s large-scale uranium mining permit hearings Monday morning after listening to more than an hour’s worth of pleas from attorneys and members of the public set to testify in the hearings.
Powertech USA Inc., board members agreed to postpone the week of hearings to the end of the month. This move, however, frustrated Powertech’s project manager Mark Hollenbeck.
“It’s taken us over a year to get a hearing,” he said, adding that the company applied for a water permit in June, 2012. The permit was recommended for approval by the Department of Natural Resources in November 2012.
“This will kill economic development in South Dakota,” he said. “It’s horrendously expensive to bring in experts … I understand the hardships, but we could have had these hearings last summer. We’re extremely frustrated.”
The state, he added, didn’t want to schedule the hearings during the summer because of higher hotel costs during that time of year.
The new hearings will be held the week of Oct. 28 at the Ramkota, beginning at 8:30 a.m.
Clean Water Alliance attorney Bruce Ellison, who has argued against the project, made his case to delay the week of hearings simple: he couldn’t get to his office and notes.
“These preceding aren’t going to be what they could be,” said Ellison. “ … People who have the greatest stake in this can’t be here.”
Powertech has applied for an in situ mining permit that would extract an estimated 1 million pounds of uranium a year for eight years on an almost 11,000 acre piece of land that straddles Fall River and Custer counties.
Ellison, in a later interview, said he had little sympathy for Hollenbeck’s frustration.
“It’s a process that could dramatically affect the water resources in South Dakota and they’re worried their profits are down because we’re starting six months late?” he said.
Powertech is also currently in the middle of hearings before the Board of Minerals and Environment, with the second week set to begin Nov. 11. All meetings are open to the public.