Thursday, October 8, 2009

One step forward, one step back

Powertech gets an "incomplete" from South Dakota on its Dewey-Burdock permit

This blog post is an edited version of coverage published in Fuel Cycle Week, V8N347 on 10/06/09 by International Nuclear Associates, Washington, DC

Powertech logoThe State of South Dakota is not happy with Powertech (TSE:PWE) about the quality of its permit application for an ISR uranium mine. In a 41-page letter dated Aug 6, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources determined, in a review for completeness, that "the application lacks sufficient detail to address fundamental questions" about the project.

The state did not reject the application, a claim made by environmental groups, but it did send the uranium miner back to the desktop to finish the job.

ISR uranium mineThe state raised three fundamental objections to the completeness of the permit application for an ISR mine to be located on a 10,600 acre site 13 miles west of Edgemont, SD, near the Wyoming border.

First, the state engineers couldn't figure out whether Powertech intended to use ISR mining methods in an area which has potable water supplies. Second, the engineers said in their letter the uranium miner needed to be specific about the aquifer characteristics of each area to be mined. Third, the miner failed to be specific about its proposed methods for groundwater restoration.

Although the state did not conduct a technical review of the permit application, a representative for area environmental groups used the letter as a springboard for a claim that the application had been rejected by the state.

southwest sunset Paul Robinson, the research director for the Southwest Research & Information Center (SRIC) in Albuquerque, NM, told FCW "the application has been rejected as unacceptable."

"There were fundamental defects in the application," he said.

However, Robinson, who's group is representing a Native American organization called "Defenders of the Black Hills, also allowed that Powertech has the right to resubmit its application in response to the state's letter.

Richard Clement, Powertech CEO, (right) told FCW his firm is in the process of responding to the state's comments. He dismissed Robinson's claim.

"The state did not reject our application. We have the information they want. It's not unusual to get these kinds of questions."

Tom Brander, an engineering with the state's groundwater protection program, also disagreed with Robinson's claim the permit application was rejected on technical grounds.

"It's just not complete," he said. "In a nutshell they [Powertech] haven't provided sufficient information for us to make a thorough review of the application."

Progress at the NRC

nrc logoBecause South Dakota is not an "agreement state" with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), Powertech must get approval of the mine from the federal government. Clements told FCW his firm is also submitting additional information to the NRC in response to that agency's questions.

Eventually, Clement said, the NRC will publish a draft environmental impact statement and conduct public hearings about the proposed mine. So far the NRC has not published a schedule for completing the EIS or holding the hearing.

On Oct 7 Powertech said in a statement the staff of the NRC found the Company's application [ADAMS documents] for its Dewey-Burdock uranium in situ project acceptable for detailed technical and environmental review.

Energy Fuels gets green light in Montrose, Colorado

energy fuelsIt is a clean sweep for Energy Fuels (TSE:EFR) on the western slope. There Montrose County Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the company's Pinion Ridge Special Use Permit Application for a 500 ton/day uranium mill to be located near Nucla, CO, in the Paradox Valley.

Gary Steele, VP for Marketing at Energy Fuels, told FCW, "it took 13 months to get to this result."

"It was the most significant hurdle to cross."

[See prior blog coverageNew battle lines drawn in Colorado uranium wars"]

He added, "we're anxious to move ahead with our permit application to the State of Colorado.

Bottom line says Steele, Energy Fuels hopes that if all goes well with the state it will "move dirt" in the 1st quarter of 2011 and start production in the end of 2011. "It's a small mill, "Steele said, "and we can get it built in eight-or-nine months."

Asked how the firm would feed the mill, Steele pointed out Energy Fuels owns the Whirlwind and Energy Queen mines which the firm will bring into production when the price of uranium makes it economically feasible.

With the Montrose County decision in hand, Energy Fuels has completed a major milestone on the road to building the first new uranium mill in the U.S. in the past three decades.

Energy fuels operations

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