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Regulators hold hearing on disputed uranium mine

August 28, 2019

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — A three-day hearing before federal regulators that began Wednesday aims to resolve a long-running dispute over the potential impact of a proposed uranium mine in South Dakota on sites of Native American cultural, historical and religious significance.

Powertech, a subsidiary of Canada-based Azarga Uranium, has been trying to develop the mine in Edgemont, along the southwest edge of the Black Hills, since 2009. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission granted the company 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 proposed mine would be located about 50 miles (80 kilometers) from the Pine Ridge Reservation. The Oglala Sioux Tribe has said it would encroach on traditional homelands and argues that the commission didn’t sufficiently study the potential impact of the project on Native American burials grounds, artifacts and other cultural sites.

In written testimony submitted in advance of the licensing board hearing in Rapid City, the Oglala Sioux said any harm done to cultural resources, especially to burials and artifacts, “will be an irreparable injury to the very identity of the tribe,” according to the Rapid City Journal .

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has said regulators have done everything within their power to study the potential impact. Powertech, in its position statement, argued that the tribe hasn’t cooperated with a plan to conduct an on-the-ground cultural resources survey at the proposed mine site. Powertech asserts that the tribe and other intervenors have sought only to “further delay the project’s development.”

If the board sides with the regulators and Powertech, the company could then seek the additional federal, state and local permits it needs to start mining.

The licensing board said it expects to issue its ruling by Nov. 29.

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

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