Uranium mining in the Black Hills – Why are we involved?


Above: In situ mining operation, Smith Ranch, Wyoming

We here at DRA are working on the uranium issue because last November at our Annual Meeting, the board adopted a resolution calling for a moratorium on all uranium mining in South Dakota. That resolution was written by our board chair and some of our West River members who care deeply about the Black Hills. Our Black Hills Chapter has also voted to adopt uranium mining as their current campaign. There are some out there who seem to think we only work on landowner’s rights. For anyone who knows DRA, you know we work on those issues most dear to our members. This is one of them.

The biggest uranium issue right now is the proposed Dewey-Burdock mine west of Hot Springs. There is significant local opposition, and many questions about the project’s safety, environmental impacts, and how the state will handle regulation of the mine (if at all). Right now, there are not any bills dealing with uranium mining, but Powertech, the company proposing the Dewey-Burdock project, is here and lobbying heavily for their mine. They were also granted time in both the House and Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committees.

DRA members and others did a great job responding to our action alerts for contacts to those committee members. Since Powertech got a front row seat, we felt it was only fair to make sure legislators heard the other side of the story. There will be a lot more work to do in educating both legislators and the public about the implications of this mine, and we will continue working with members to make sure that happens. I’ll be updating the blog early next week with some of our responses to Powertech’s presentations.

This is, in all honesty, our most controversial issue this year. But it should not be. It should not be controversial to ask that before we leap into speculative mining ventures we examine all possible implications. It should not be controversial to ask that the South Dakota not relinquish its duty to regulate mining operations within the state. And it most certainly should not be controversial to ask that people in communities affected by this potential mine have the same opportunity to speak to their legislators as the company proposing it. But for whatever reason, it has become controversial. But we’ll stick to our guts (yes guts), and we’ll keep talking. And we’ll keep talking about everything else we’re doing too – helping young farmers, supporting local dairies, encouraging landowner rights, promoting local food. Its all related. And its all important.


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