SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) ¿ The Canadian developer of a planned uranium mine in southwest South Dakota can move ahead with its request for a federal permit, one of four needed to operate.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission informed Powertech Uranium Corp. that its application for a detailed technical and environmental review has been accepted for the Dewey Burdock project near Edgemont.

The company is currently operating under a state permit to drill exploratory holes. It withdrew the federal application in June so it could fix several deficiencies that would have led to the proposal being rejected.

NRC spokesman Scott Burnell said Tuesday that those issues have been addressed and the NRC staff has started reviewing the application. There will be an opportunity for a public hearing before the agency makes a decision on the project, which could happen within about two years, he said.

The application accepted by the NRC is for a Source Material License, which deals with nearly every aspect of the proposal, said Mark Hollenbeck, Dewey Burdock project manager.

"It covers all issues related to radiation, health and safety," he said.

Powertech also needs a permit from the Environmental Protection Agency and two from the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Hollenbeck said.

The company has a corporate office in Vancouver, British Columbia, and operations in Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico, as well as the Edgemont project in South Dakota.

Powertech wants to inject chemically treated water into holes to dissolve the uranium, then pump out the solution and collect the uranium for processing. Company representatives said the process, called "in situ leach-mining," is safe and does not cause contamination.

But some environmental and American Indian groups oppose the project for fear it would harm underground aquifers and disturb sacred and burial sites. The land is about 60 miles from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and lies on the southern edge of the Black Hills, which Indians consider sacred.

Charmaine White Face with Defenders of the Black Hills said the groups have already filed opposition at the state level and also plan to oppose the project when the federal process allows it.

"I'm sure that between all of us we will push it as far as we can to stop this," she said.


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