Lawyers for the Oglala Sioux tribe and for individual appellants (foreground), together with tribal expert witnesses (center), address administrative judges (background), while court reporter (right) creates transcript at Aug. 28 Atomic Safety and Licensing Board evidentiary hearing in Rapid City on Dewey-Burdock mining license. Photo by Talli Nauman / Native Sun News Today

EPA Ignores tribal consultation

EPA Ignores tribal consultation

HOT SPRINGS – After tribal members and other residents roundly rejected the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed draft permits to provide Black Hills water to a foreign uranium mine project promoter, the agency has revised the wording for a new comment period, it announced August 26.

Members of the public will have a chance to testify on the revised drafts at a hearing on the Dewey Burdock Project set in Hot Springs for October 5, and the written submission period will remain open until October 10, the agency said. However, it has not conducted government-to-government consultation with tribes in the matter.

All the bands of the Oceti Sakowin, or Seven Council Fires of the Great Sioux Nation, have tribal resolutions in place in opposition to any uranium mining in unceded 1868 Ft. Laramie Treaty territory, which overlaps a five-state area, including the entire Black Hills.

The EPA has guidelines that call for it to “consult on a government-to-government basis…when EPA actions and decisions may affect tribal interests.”

It is the first-ever federal agency to come up with “Tribal Treaty Rights Guidance,” a document created with tribal consultation, which “outlines a process to help navigate treaty rights discussions with tribes during tribal consultations,” it says.

Tribal members and allies, pictured in Rapid City, South Dakota, in 2015, continue to express opposition to licensing of proposed Dewey Burdock radioactive extraction project, which regulators say could have a large impact on Lakota cultural resources. Photo by Native Sun News Today

“It is an initial step in EPA’s efforts to improve the methods and processes in place to meet the commitment to honor and respect tribal treaty rights and resources protected by treaties,” the agency’s literature establishes.

Yet, during the May 2017 hearing on the water permitting, which took place in Rapid City, tribal officials testified that no such consultation had occurred on the water at issue. Neither has the consultation occurred during the ensuing two years.

The EPA issued draft permits in 2017 and revised draft permits this 2019 in response to Azarga Uranium Corp.’s applications to conduct South Dakota’s first-ever uranium solution mining and wastewater disposal, or in situ leaching, in the underground water tables.

The EPA is taking public comment on the revised drafts as well as the company’s request for the agency to exempt it from compliance with the quality standards of the Clean Drinking Water Act in order to proceed.

If the EPA agrees, the company would receive a permit to punch some 4,000 new injection well holes in the Inyan Kara and Minnelusa aquifers at the 10,000-acre Dewey Burdock site located on the headwaters of the Cheyenne River, 50 miles west of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and 12 miles north of Edgemont in Fall River and Custer counties.

To read the exemption and permitting documents, visit

Written comments on the exemption and revised draft water permits may be submitted online at under docket number EPA-R08-OW-2019-0512.

Comments may be sent by mail to Valois Robinson, U.S. EPA Region 8, Mail Code 8WD-SDU, 1595 Wynkoop Street, Denver, CO 80202-1129

The public also may submit written and verbal comments during the hearing, which is set for 9 a.m. to noon and from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Mueller Center, 801 S. 6th Street in Hot Springs on October 5, 2019.


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