Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

"Board decision endangers bald eagles and archaeologic sites," Defenders of the Black Hills, November 20, 2008

Pierre, SD - A decision made by the South Dakota Board of Minerals and Environment ignored recommendations by the SD Game, Fish, and Parks Department [GF&P] to protect a bald eagle nest, and the SD Archaeologist to study five possible cultural resource sites in an area slated to become a uranium processing plant.

Even though the recommendations were given to the Board in an information packet from the SD Department of Environment and Natural Resources [DENR] at a hearing on Nov. 19, 2008, and Defenders of the Black Hills used the recommendations as a part of the grounds for denial of a permit to drill 30 more uranium exploratory wells, the Board granted the permit.

Powertech (USA) Inc., a Canadian uranium mining company, wants to build a uranium
processing plant on the site in question.

The GF&P letter dated Oct. 17, 2008, stated that the no exploration activity should be conducted on the land in question for 7 months per year, between Feb. 1 and Aug. 31, "to avoid disruption of bald eagle activity at the nest" and also a nearby redtail hawk nest. Defenders of the Black Hills further asked about compliance with
other federal laws, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and the Bald and Gold Eagle Act which would protect the bald eagles. The Board did not respond.

Mike Fosha, the Assistant State Archaeologist for the SD State Historical Society who gave testimony at the hearing, also talked about several sites that still needed to be studied. In a letter dated Oct. 15, 2008, to the DENR, Fosha said "Before any
recommendation on these sites can be made, a report outlining their avoidance or their archaeological potential from a cultural resources perspective must be reviewed by this office.Five sites have not been evaluated and require additional archaeological investigation before any recommendation can be made concerning their
eligibility for nomination to the NRHP." [National Register of Historic Places]

Defenders again stated that the Board of Minerals must deny the permit as the State Archaeologist did not have time to conduct a review or make a recommendation. Without such a review and recommendation, irreplaceable archaeological and historic sites could be destroyed. Defenders also questioned Powertech's comments that a Cultural Resources evaluation was conducted as it did not state the date or who conducted the evaluation.

Gary Heckenliable, from ACTion for the Environment, had a statement presented which further questioned the financial viability of the Canadian company to reclaim the land after the mining operation ceases. Heckenliable asked the Board to consider the financial capabilities for a reclamation bond when Powertech's shares are currently at 22 cents per share. His statement reminded the Board of their previous permit to Brohm Mining Company, another Canadian company, who mined gold and left an abandoned mine whose cleanup is now being paid by South Dakota taxpayers.

Garvard Good Plume Jr., in his individual testimony, quoted a study from the South Dakota School of Mines regarding the old abandoned uranium mines in the area contaminating ground water. He stated: "No more uranium exploratory wells should be drilled until all the aquifers are cleaned up, safe, and protected."

According to state law, SDCL 45-6D-29., the Board may deny a permit for any of the following reasons:

(1) The application is incomplete or the surety has not been posted;

(2) The applicant has not paid the required fee;

(3) The adverse effects of the proposed uranium exploration operation on the historic, archaeologic, geologic, scientific, or recreational aspects of affected or surrounding land outweigh the benefits of the proposed uranium exploration operation;

(4) The proposed uranium exploration operation will result in the loss or reduction of long-range productivity of watershed lands, public and domestic water wells, aquifer recharge areas, or significant agricultural areas; or

(5) The proposed uranium exploration operation will adversely affect threatened or endangered wildlife indigenous to the area.

The next step in the process is an appeal of the Board of Minerals
decision in state court.


For more information call Charmaine White Face, Coordinator, Defenders of the Black Hills, PO Box 2003, Rapid City, SD 57709 Phone: (605) 399 -1868
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