Azarga’s Needs these Permits

Azarga needs at least 10 permits/licenses before it can legally mine uranium in the Dewey-Burdock area in the Southern Black Hills.

They are:

  • NRC License (they have it, but can’t use it until litigation is settled)
  • EPA ISL mining permit
  • EPA deep disposal well permit
  • State mining permit
  • State water permit for Inyan Kara formations
  • State water permit for Madison formation
  • State wastewater spraying permit
  • BLM permission
  • NPDES wastewater permit
  • Army Corps of Engineers permit (this is actually a question mark right now, due to changes in federal law)

There will probably also be county permits in Custer County. None needed in Fall River County, as they’ve given them a green light as of like 9 years ago.



The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia issued a decision on Friday, July 20, in the case Oglala Sioux Tribe v. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The Court’s decision supports the Tribe’s arguments and is an important step in protecting the Black Hills from uranium mining.

Download complete document: OST v NRC Court merits decision filed 7-20-18

The decision is one step in a long process surrounding the proposed Dewey-Burdock uranium mine in Custer and Fall River Counties on the southwest edge of the Black Hills. The project would use the in situ leach method of uranium mining and includes over 10,000 acres. It would also have dire consequences for Lakota cultural resources, the area’s water, and our tourism and agriculture economy.

The case was filed by the Oglala Sioux Tribe in an attempt to protect cultural resources and reverse a license that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued to Powertech/Azarga, a foreign company. The license would allow the company to handle radioactive materials as part of mining and processing uranium.

EPA Hearing Valentine NE 4-27-17 1

The Tribe said that the NRC staff’s issuance of a license before considering the potential impacts of mining on cultural resources was wrong. The Court of Appeals agreed, chiding the NRC for a pattern of issuing licenses before full consideration of projects’ potential impacts. The Court said that the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires that all potential impacts of a project be thoroughly considered before a license is issued. This decision could have far-reaching impacts, as it supports the NEPA process at a time when it is under attack by the Trump administration.

The Court stopped short of overturning the company’s license. Instead, it returned the case to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for further consideration in light of its discussion in the decision. This discussion makes it clear that the Commission should not have issued the license until identification and consideration of cultural resources was complete under the NEPA process. The Court also effectively forbade any ground disturbing activities until all laws are complied with.

The company would need to get at least ten permits and licenses to be able to start its mining project. After 12 years of activity in South Dakota, it has only received the NRC license, and that license is now in danger of being reversed.

Clean Water Alliance applauds the Court’s decision and the Oglala Sioux Tribe’s leadership on this issue. We now hope that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will follow the law, take away the company’s license, and complete consideration of all potential impacts from this project. We believe that full consideration will show that the proposed uranium mine’s impacts would be unacceptable and that the project should not go ahead.

1872 Mining Act Reform

There is a new effort to reform the 1872 Mining Law, which is the law that permits companies to mine on federal public lands without paying any royalties. There’s more information on the and on the reform effort here —

Mining Reform Bill Introduced on Anniversary of Infamous 1872 Law
Grijalva-Lowenthal proposal would bring U.S. mining law into the 21st Century

Washington, D.C. – House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Raul Grijalva (D-AZ-3) and Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA-47) today introduced the Hardrock Leasing and Reclamation Act of 2018, which would give Americans more choices in how our public lands agencies balance hardrock mining with other land uses. The bill would replace the 1872 General Mining Law, which still governs mining for gold, copper, uranium and other hardrock minerals on publicly owned lands managed by the federal government . Today’s introduction coincides with the 146th birthday of the 1872 law, and an aggressive mining industry push to further erode already flimsy environmental and community protections against the impacts of hardrock mining.

“Representative Grijalva and Lowenthal’s bill would bring 19th century mining law into the 21st century,” said Lauren Pagel, Earthworks’ Policy Director. “It would bring badly needed reforms that work for western communities, taxpayers, the environment, and responsible mining companies.”

Unlike all other land uses, the 1872 law in practice makes mining the highest and best use. If a mining company discovers valuable minerals on public domain lands, land managers interpret the law as to given them no choice but to permit mining, no matter if the land is better used for recreation, conservation, renewable energy, or even fossil fuel extraction.

Also unlike other extractive industries, under the 1872 law, mining companies pay no royalties. Whoever stakes a claim and discovers valuable minerals on public lands claims those riches — more than $300 billion and counting since 1872 — without giving taxpayers a dime for them.

The 1872 law also does not charge a fee for abandoned mine cleanup, the cost of which often falls to taxpayers. The EPA estimates the backlog of cleanup costs for these mines at $20-$54 billion — vastly more than the entire annual Superfund budget.

Grijalva & Lowenthal’s bill would update the mining law by addressing those issues and:
Allow land managers to balance other public land uses such as recreation, hunting, fishing, and wildlife habitat conservation with hardrock mining.
Prohibit mines that would pollute water in perpetuity.

Provide a fair return to the U.S. Treasury on minerals taken from public lands.
Start a polluters pay dedicated fund for the $50 billion clean up bill for the hundreds of thousands of abandoned hardrock mines that litter our public lands.
Protect National Monuments, National Parks, Wilderness Study Areas, Roadless Areas, Wild and Scenic Rivers and other areas of critical environmental concern from irresponsible mining.

For all but existing producing claims, replace mining claims with a leasing system similar to that used for oil, gas and coal mining on public lands.

“The Grijalva-Lowenthal bill would give public land owners — all Americans — a choice when mining is proposed on their land,” said Pagel. “Under the 1872 law, we have no choice because mining is prioritized over every other land use. Reform must focus on protecting communities and the environment by balancing industrial scale mining with other land uses, such as conservation, recreation and tourism, drinking water supplies, and renewable energy development.”

The need for reform grows more pressing with each passing year. Some of the most abundant deposits remain harder-to-reach and more wasteful, posing a greater risk to local communities and the water they depend upon.

For More Information
Text of the Hardrock Leasing and Reclamation Act of 2018 – House Natural Resources Democrats
Title by title summary of HRLA of 2018 – House Natural Resources Democrats
Flowchart explaining how mining claims would be converted to leases – House Natural Resources Democrats
Text of the General Mining Law of 1872 – U.S. Code
1872 Mining Law 101 – Earthworks