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SDPB Radio Coverage of the South Dakota Legislature. See all coverage and find links to audio and video streams live from the Capitol at www.sdpb.org/statehouse

Uranium Mining Water Protection Bill Fails in Committee

A measure that sought to create water restoration processes for uranium mining projects failed in the House Ag committee Thursday morning. House Bill 1193 requires anyone applying for a mining permit to also demonstrate how the water used in the process would be returned back to baseline levels.

Supporters of House Bill 1193 are concerned that water is contaminated, and will ruin wells after being used for uranium mining. Susan Henderson is a cattle rancher in Edgemont. She says she’s dependent on underground water to run her ranch. If uranium mining were to come to the Edgemont area, Henderson says it would reduce the volume and quality of water available to her.

“The problem that you have here with this whole thing is that what are you going to do when you start to use 9,500 gallons per minute, and you are going to pollute that water because you’re going to dissolve the ground around the in situ leach mining wells, and then you’re going to end up putting back in the aquifers. My contention is that once you put it back into the aquifers, it will spread,” Henderson says.

Other proponents say the legislation gives the state regulatory powers to ensure water is protected. But opponents argue that uranium mining doesn’t pollute water, and reports from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission support that argument. They say allowing uranium mining will bring jobs to South Dakota. Representative Gary Cammack explains why he opposes the bill.

“I have a clear understanding of the value of water, but I also have honored science and when two different agencies spend six to seven years studying an issue like this and they come back with no findings that are detrimental, and we’ve got a small community that can greatly benefit from this project, I believe that we should do what we can to move it forward,” Cammack says.

Opponents say since there’s no evidence of pollution, House Bill 1193 is just a way to slow down the licensing process and keep uranium mining out of the Black Hills. The bill was voted down by the committee.