Court, regulators clash over uranium project in South Dakota

Law & Politics

Federal regulators recently abandoned a proposed survey of Native American cultural resources at a planned uranium mine site in the southwest part South Dakota, just days before a judge decided the survey is required by federal law.

The contradictory actions could further complicate and prolong a regulatory review process that is already nearly a decade old, the Rapid City Journal reported.

Powertech (USA) Inc., a subsidiary of Canada-based Azarga Uranium, wants to develop a mine 13 miles northwest of Edgemont, on the remote southwestern edge of the Black Hills. The project is named "Dewey-Burdock," for two old town sites in the area.

The uranium would be mined by the "in situ" method, which involves drilling dozens of wells across a wide area. A liquid solution is pumped underground to dissolve the uranium and bring it to the surface, so it can be processed for use in nuclear power plants.

Contention over the potential presence of Native American burial sites, artifacts and other cultural resources within the 17-square-mile area of the proposed mine has been ongoing since Powertech applied to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a license in 2009. Nevertheless, the commission granted the license in 2014, even as a dispute about the lack of an adequate cultural resources survey was still pending before the commission's Atomic Safety and Licensing Board.

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