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Federal hearing to review South Dakota uranium mine dispute

May 13, 2019

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — Federal regulatory officials have scheduled a hearing on a South Dakota uranium mine proposal that is intended as a step toward resolving a decade-old dispute over the potential presence of Native American cultural resources at the planned site.

The federal Atomic Safety and Licensing Board will hold a hearing on the proposed mine near Edgemont from August 28-30, the Rapid City Journal reported.

Powertech’s plans to drill for uranium have stalled for years over the Oglala Sioux Tribe’s concerns that the area could potentially hold Native American burial sites, artifacts and other cultural resources.

The subsidiary of Canada-based Azarga Uranium has been trying to develop a mine along the southwest edge of the Black Hills since 2009. The tribe’s Pine Ridge reservation is about 50 miles (80 kilometers) from the proposed mine, but the site is part of the tribe’s traditional homelands.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission granted Powertech a license to mine uranium for use in nuclear power plants in 2014, even though a dispute over the lack of an adequate cultural resources survey was still pending before the commission’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board.

The board directed the commission to fix the issue in 2015, and they left the company’s license in effect during the process. The tribe petitioned for a review of the permit decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in 2017.

Powertech, the tribe and the commission have been in disagreement about the methodology and scope of the site survey for the past several years. Talks broke down last summer and the commission abandoned plans to conduct the survey. Days later, the appeals court ruled in the tribe’s favor, saying the commission violated the National Environmental Policy Act by leaving the company’s license in effect without a site survey.

The board announced last month that the commission and the tribe have reached a “firm impasse” about the survey’s methodology.

The August hearing, which will be held in Rapid City, is intended to resolve the survey issue. The board will order a course of action to settle the dispute once the review is complete.

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Information from: Rapid City Journal, http://www.rapidcityjournal.com

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