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SD Senate Panel Rejects Uranium Mining Bill

By CHET BROKAW

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) â¿¿ A plan to restore some of the state's permitting authority over a proposed uranium mine was rejected by a South Dakota Senate panel Thursday after lawmakers said they see no need to spend state money duplicating federal regulatory programs.

The Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee voted 7-1 to kill the bill, which was promoted by ranchers and others who fear the mine near Edgemont in southwestern South Dakota will deplete and pollute the underground water supplies that will be used in the mining process.

Committee members said it makes sense to let federal agencies handle the mine permit and some related issues because the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources does not have sufficient staff to handle those duties. However, the state agency does have control over permits that allow the mine to use and discharge water, they said.

"What more can we do?" said Sen. Jason Frerichs, D-Wilmot.

Susan Henderson, who ranches near the proposed mine, said she is afraid the mine will use so much underground water that her wells will go dry. She said all the dams on her 16-square-mile ranch went dry in last summer's drought, so she needed well water for her cattle.

"If I had not had not had that underground water and been able to use that, I'd have been out of businesses and so would all of my neighbors," Henderson said.

But Mark Hollenbeck, a rancher and engineer who is project manager for the mine, said he would not be involved in the project if he thought it would take too much water or pollute it.

"I want to make sure it's safe for my family, my kids and my neighbors," Hollenbeck said.

Powertech Uranium Corp.'s proposed Dewey-Burdock project, named for two abandoned towns nearby, would cover about 16.5 square miles and produce about 1 million pounds of uranium oxide annually for the next two decades.

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