WASHINGTON D.C. — The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) published its final supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) for Powertech Uranium’s proposed Dewey Burdock in situ uranium mine Thursday morning.
The NRC said its SEIS found nothing that would preclude licensing the Canadian uranium mining corporation’s American arm, Powertech USA, to construct and operate the proposed mine north of Edgemont in the Southern Black Hills. The report said the project would generally have small impacts on the area’s soil, water, air and economy.
An estimated workforce of 86 during construction, and two fewer once the mine begins operating would have limited impact on local housing, the employment rate, schools and other services, it said.
Opponents of the proposed mine, who maintain it has much more potential to contaminate groundwater, surface water, and soil than Powertech and the NRC allege, argue that the SEIS published yesterday lacks any independent research on the potential impacts of the mine.
“The NRC uses Powertech — the company that wants to mine — as the source of much of its information on the impacts of the mine,” Clean Water Alliance representative Dr. Lilias Jarding said in a written statement. “The other major source of information is the NRC’s Generic Environmental Impact Statement, which is a general document that is not specific to the many challenges present at the Dewey Burdock site.”
Jarding also argued that the SEIS is deficient as it was published before the NRC completed a cultural resources analysis for the proposed site of the mine, which contains areas of cultural significance for several American Indian Tribes.
“The SEIS notes that the analysis is ‘ongoing,’” she said. “This relegates the cultural studies to afterthoughts, and necessarily limits the NRC’s ability to protect these important resources.”
The NRC said it will not issue a license for the proposed mine until completing a review of its impact on historical and cultural resources. An NRC board also will hold public hearings later this year allowing comments from any interested parties.
In addition, the project still needs approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the South Dakota Board of Minerals and Environment, and the South Dakota Water Management Board.
Powertech President Richard Clement said the NRC’s publication of the SEIS is a milestone and he looks forward to the project receiving a license.
“The depth and extent of the review provides a resounding confirmation on the benefits and limited environmental impact of the project,” Clement said in a written statement.
Powertech Uranium Corp. plans to use a method known as in situ recovery, which would pump groundwater fortified with oxygen and carbon dioxide into the underground ore deposits to dissolve the uranium. The water would be pumped back to the surface, where the uranium would be extracted, processed into yellowcake format, and sold.
The EPA is still reviewing the project. When that review is complete, the two state boards will resume hearings to determine whether to issue Powertech a state mining permit and water permits.
Powertech says the proposed Dewey Burdock project would produce about 1 million pounds of uranium oxide a year for roughly 20 years. It’s about 13 miles northwest of Edgemont, close to the Black Hills National Forest.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.