Powertech, a Canadian company whose U.S. arm is overseeing the project, 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 and sold to nuclear power plants.
The defeated bill sought to repeal a law passed by the 2011 Legislature that prevents the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources from duplicating federal regulation of underground injection wells and in-situ mining.
That means the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission is in charge of deciding whether the project gets a license, which is a mining permit. The NRC has recommended that a license be granted and a final decision could be made by June. The Environmental Protection Agency is considering Powertech's application for permits related to injecting water underground in the mining process.
However, the state still has control over granting water rights permits that would let the project use underground water for the extraction process and a permit for discharging water.Dayton Hyde, an author who runs the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary near Hot Springs, said he opposes the mine because it could pollute the Cheyenne River and underground water supplies used to support the ranch's 500 horses and 100 cattle. "Without that water we just can't exist," Hyde said. But Hollenbeck, the mine project manager, said state officials will regulate the water use that worries mine opponents. Hollenbeck said the NRC needs to handle the mine license because state agencies do not have the expertise or staff to do so. State Environment Secretary Steve Pirner did not testify for or against the bill. But in response to committee questions, he said his agency would need additional money and staff to handle the regulatory duties now done by the NRC and EPA. ___ Follow Chet Brokaw on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/chetbrokaw