Lessee, it's been a couple of weeks now since Azarga/Powertech (a merger made in penny stock heaven--I'll just refer to it as "Powertech" here) got approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on its Dewey-Burdock application. Dewey-Burdock is the site in the southern Black Hills where the company wants to set up a uranium mining venture that will contaminate the ground water for probably time immemorial. And yes, I said contaminate forever, because according to the science directed at this "in situ" type of mining, among the risks of the process is "the impossibility of restoring natural groundwater conditions after completion of the leaching operations." To date, approval is based on being able to restore the water to its pre-mining uses, merely making it potable. That means contaminants from the in situ leaching process can remain, so long as they are at levels deemed safe for human consumption. To which I say, yeccchh. I've been around this old planet a few times and I've had my share of water considered safe for human consumption that made me want to gag as I quaffed it. If that's the kind of "potability" that Powertech's footprint will leave in the Black Hills, I join the chorus of those around here who would like the company to get lost.
Meantime, I've been following the company's fortunes for the better part of a year now, given how many people I know are fighting tooth and nail to keep this outfit away from here. A company like this (worth 7 cents a share as I write) trades on the "penny stock" market, a haven for all sorts of risks per NASDAQ's assessment, which include "lack of information available to the public . . .no minimum standards . . . lack of history . . . [and lack of] liquidity." Stocks like this prosper--if they do--when some big news about their prospects suddenly disseminates through the world of brokers who use big announcements to hype their inventories of stocks worth a few pennies. Given the way company officials at Powertech honked loudly over the news a few weeks ago that the firm had just gotten approval from NRC for its Black Hills venture, you'd think some upside follow-through on the price of the stock was in the cards.
The follow-through never happened. Tracking the stock at PWURF, you can see that since the NRC news came out, it has traded within a penny or two of its pre-announcement price, with this morning's market about unchanged from the day the news came out. My sense is that penny stock speculators, despite the NRC nod, know that approval is still a long ways off, considering that South Dakota-based hearings aren't even scheduled until August. Those who've owned this stock for several years now, having bought it back in '07 when it was around $4/share, and even those who bought in '11 at 50 cents/share, must be extraordinarily frustrated. The "bag-holder blues" is a very sad song indeed.
I suspect shareholder frustration is what manifested into a laughably bungled effort at complaining about the media this week. My friend Cory Heidelberger in his blog (the best political blog in South Dakota, hands down) The Madville Times reports that officials at Powertech complained to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission about a Rapid City Journal editorial that faulted NRC's approval of the Black Hills mining venture. NRC, in wonderfully terse beauractic-ese, told Powertech to stuff it. Heidelberger provides a pdf copy of the entire e-mail exchange between the company and NRC.
The old "blame the media" dodge is a time-honored political gimmick that I believe is generally used by the losers of a political tussle. I've never actually seen it applied to a situation from a private sector venture, and I doubt that Powertech will be setting any sort of precedent here. Indeed, if the incident follows form, Powertech will be among the list of losers who complained about the media as they morphed into the obscurity they deserved.