"The major consequences are water contamination and water use," Jarding said, noting that Powertech would use 47 billion gallons of water over a 10-year period. "It's a huge amount of water, and people really need to sit up and take notice of this one."
But Mark Hollenbeck, Powertech's project manager, said he's confident the agencies reviewing the applications will find the proposed mine can be operated within regulations and without harm to the environment.
"There are volumes and volumes and volumes of technical data that back up this permit application," said Hollenbeck, who added that the company hopes to receive all permits and licenses soon so work can begin about a year from now.
The state's review is limited, due to a law passed by the Legislature in 2011 that prevents the Department of Environment and Natural Resources from duplicating federal regulation of underground injection wells and in-situ mining.Mike Cepac, an engineering manager with the state minerals and mining program, said the Board of Minerals and Environment will mostly look at the surface effects of the operation. A hearing on the mining permit is unlikely before April, he said. The state Water Rights Program staff has recommended that the Water Management Board approve Powertech's applications for two permits to use underground water because it appears the water is available, can be used without illegally impairing existing water rights held by others and is beneficial and in the public interest. A public hearing has been set for Dec. 5, the office said, but is expected to be delayed until spring. The NRC said it expects a formal notice of its draft environmental report will be published Friday, and public comments will be accepted for 45 days. Stephen Cohen, team leader for facility licensing with the NRC, said a final version of the study will likely be issued in early 2013, clearing the way for completing of the separate safety evaluation report.