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Native Sun News: Activists want uranium mine hearing moved

The following story was written and reported by Talli Nauman, Native Sun News Health & Environment Editor. All content © Native Sun News.

South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard

Protestors ask Governor to move meeting to Black Hills
By Talli Nauman
Native Sun News
Health & Environment Editor

RAPID CITY - Dakota Rural Action Black Hills Chapter members and allies announced on May 29 that they are entreating South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard to change the hearing date and location for Powertech (USA), Inc.’s permit application on large-scale uranium and vanadium mining and milling operation.

They want it held in the Black Hills -- closer to home for Native Americans and nearly all other individuals most impacted by the proposed Dewey-Burdock uranium mine, the Dakota Rural Action Black Hills Chapter said in a written statement.

Among allies of the statewide family farm non-profit are the Rapid City-based Clean Water Alliance, and the Oglala Sioux Tribe, as well as the Lakota organizations Owe Aku (Take Back the Way) and Defenders of the Black Hills, which are intervening on the federal level to prevent the permitting of the 10,580-acre proposed Dewey-Burdock in-situ (ISL) mine and mills – the first ever for the state and the company.

Activists are calling on Daugaard “to ensure the democratic process is upheld and maintains its validity regarding the permitting process,” the chapter stated.

“I felt unrepresented,” said Dakota Rural Action Black Hills Chapter member Cheryl Rowe, after the May 23 pre-hearing conference decision to hold the hearing in Pierre. “There was no regard for the people who took time off work and lost pay to go there,” she said of the pre-hearing conference in Rapid City.

The South Dakota Board of Minerals and Environment held the conference for the stated purpose of getting public input and setting a date and location for the hearing. When interested interveners arrived, “it seemed obvious that they had picked their date regardless of what the public had to say,” said Rowe, who is an intervener in the state permit process.

The large-scale mining permit is one of several the Canadian Powertech Uranium Corp. seeks for its wholly-owned U.S. subsidiary Powertech (USA), Inc. to obtain rights and access to water and minerals at the proposed Dewey-Burdock project site 50 miles west of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in the southwestern Black Hills of South Dakota.

A hearing for two water permits previously had been scheduled for the coming October. Presiding over the large-scale mining pre-hearing conference, recent Daugaard appointee Rex Hagg, a Rapid City lawyer, decided the Board of Minerals and Environment would hold the application hearing September 23-27.

The close proximity of the date puts too much pressure on interveners to adequately prepare, Dakota Rural Action said in a written statement. Acting as conference chair, Hagg also stated the board likely will hold the large-scale mining hearing in the state capital of Pierre, rather than in the Black Hills, where the water permit hearings will be held.

“Where is the concern about our representation?” asked Dakota Rural Action member Rebecca Leas, a health professional who attended the conference. “Since virtually all the interveners are from the Black Hills, the location needs to be accessible to those people and take into consideration families and ranchers who need to stay here.”

By law, the decisions of the pre-hearing chairman are final unless the rest of the Board of Minerals and Environment overrules them. However, the decisions also may be appealed to the state Circuit Court and Supreme Court, according to the official letter announcing the pre-hearing. The Black Hills Chapter is a community-based affiliate of Dakota Rural Action. The chapter advocates local food, community, renewable energy, natural resources, sustainable agriculture and land preservation.

(Contact Talli Nauman at talli.nauman@gmail.com)

Copyright permission by Native Sun News

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