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Uranium mining declared a nuisance in Fall River County

A political sign on Minnekahta Ave. in Hot Springs asking voters to declare uranium mining a nuisance.
Lee Strubinger
A political sign on Minnekahta Ave. in Hot Springs asking voters to declare uranium mining a nuisance.

Fall River County voters have declared Uranium mining a nuisance.

Backers say that means the practice is now banned in the county. The manager of a proposed uranium mine disagrees.

Fifty-six percent of Fall River County residents voted in favor of the nuisance declaration. Anti-uranium mining residents hope the designation means uranium mining will cease.

Uranium mining and processing occurred in the county from the 1950s to the ‘70s.

Sarah Peterson is an organizer for the ballot question. She says a public information campaign during the last decade changed public opinion on uranium mining.

“We already have enough and it’s polluted Pass Creek and Beaver Creek that goes by the original mine, the historic open pit mine and right into the Cheyenne [River] and right into Angostura [Reservoir},” Peterson said. “I think that’s what’s really made a big difference. People are talking about it. A lot of people didn’t even know there was uranium mining in this county before.”

It’s unclear whether the designation will prevent uranium mining from going forward.

The vote is the latest bump in a rough road to getting approval to mine for uranium in the southwestern Black Hills.

Mark Hollenbeck is the project manager for enCore Energy’s Dewey Burdoch site. He’s been working for over a decade to get permits to extract uranium from the region.

He says the declaration is blatantly illegal.

“The state clearly states that if they license something it can’t be deemed a nuisance,” Hollenbeck said. “As soon as somebody wants to challenge it it will be removed from the books, I believe.”

Hollenbeck declined to say whether the company would sue the county.

Lee Strubinger is SDPB’s Rapid City-based news and political reporter. A former reporter for Fort Lupton Press (CO) and Colorado Public Radio, Lee holds a master’s in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.
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