STURGIS, S.D. - If there’s a two letter word that is a double-edge sword in South Dakota, it’s economic development. That’s because in its pursuit by industry and state legislators, it makes for some interesting contradictions. Take PowerTech Uranium Corp. for instance. Former Governor Mike Rounds, current Governor Dennis Daugaard and many state legislators have advocated for the development of the company, going so far as to give up the state’s regulatory authority over any affects of insitsu mining, a process used to extract uranium from the soil. Some contend it was a move meant to pave the way for the company to do business in this state – after being turned away in Colorado.“It is being sold as something really, really, good for the state of South Dakota, good for the economy, and good for people, when it’s not,” claims Jillian Anawaty. “People don’t realize the amount of water that is going to be drawn up out of our aquifers and contaminated.”
Anawaty, Coordinator for the Black Hills Chapter of Dakota Rural Action hopes for a good turn out at what is being called ‘teach-in’s’ across the state. In Sturgis, the informational meeting is set for Thursday, April 11 at the Sturgis Center for the Arts, at 1016 Main Street in Sturgis. Local organizer Rick Grosek says that the company’s plans for an additional six mining sites, in addition to the Dewey/Burdock Site near Edgemont, needs close scrutiny.
“That particular uranium mining operation is one of six planned,” says Grosek. “All of these will be operating in the three main aquifers for the Black Hills and foothills – which includes Sturgis.” He adds, “In addition to contaminant issues, there is also the issue of use. Powertech is asking to use 13 million gallons of water a day.”
Since making its first applications in 2007, PowerTech’s wish to explore and mine uranium has met with enough citizen objections as to keep it mired in the permitting process – despite the legislature’s deregulatory gift in 2011. Most recently, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources that had originally planned to review Powertech’s applications last month, has postponed that hearing until October. It’s ties to first a brother-in-law to former Governor Mike Rounds, and then to former legislator and now project manager for Powertech’s Dewey-Burdock Project Mark Hollenbeck, has people questioning the company structure – as a whole.
According to Talli Nauman, Health and Environment Editor with the Native Sun News, Rapid City, SD, people want to know and should be able to know if state legislators, county officials, or other tax supported agencies or individuals have a financial interest in Powertech. “So many elected officials have shown a lot of support for releasing the water,“ she observes. “With water at a premium and a valuable resource, you have to wonder why.”
In addition, the ownership of Powertech is a meandering list of companies that stretch from Canada, to the United States, to the former Soviet Union. “Powertech stock is owned by a company called Uranium One which is a company that is owned by AtomRedMetZoloto (ARMZ), the Russian Nuclear Authority,” says Dr. Lillias Jarding, Clean Water Alliance, Rapid City, SD.
Both Dr. Lillias Jarding with the Clean Water Alliance and Talli Nauman with the Native Sun News plan to be at the Teach-In on Thursday, introducing the main presenter Dr. Hannan LaCarry. He teaches classes in geology, biology, statistics, and research methods for the SEM, Natural Resources, Environmental Sciences. Hannan is also interested in the ecological, human, and social impact of declining water supplies, water contamination, and prolonged drought in the northern Great Plains region.
The information meeting begins at 7pm, Thursday, April 11, 2013 at the Center for the Arts on main street Sturgis and is free to the public.