There's a reason that the words "arrogance" and "ignorance" are often interchangeable. The Powertech saga in the Black Hills of western South Dakota is yet another example. First some background. Powertech Uranium (soon to be known as Azarga/Powertech due to a merger--I'll stick to Powertech here) hopes to begin mining uranium using a water-disturbing process called in situ (Go to the "environmental concerns" section of the link and note the phrase "unpredictable impact of the leaching liquid on the rock of the deposit."). The proposed location is an area in the Hills known as "Dewey-Burdock." The permitting process began several years ago, setting off a confrontation between the company and many local residents, including the native Oglala Sioux, whose ties to the Black Hills are measured in centuries. After years of contention, the company finally received a go-ahead from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission a little over a month ago, setting off much hoopla in its public-relations department even as it drew a yawn from investors, who've sold off the company's stock since the approval. Powertech stock was selling at a puny 8 cents/share when the NRC announcement came out. This morning it's trading at 6 cents, down by 25%--not so good for a company that greeted the NRC news with predictably overblown investor relations fanfare.
As it turns out, the sell-off in Powertech tech stock came just ahead of the announcement on April 30 that the NRC's Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) was placing a stay on the NRC license. As yet, the results of a hearing on the stay aren't known, but it appears that not much will be done to move the process forward until further ASLB and State of South Dakota hearings are held in August, 2014. The delay is based on matters involving historic and cultural resources that could be disturbed or damaged by Powertech's mining operation. As the company notes in this just-issued response to the ASLB stay, the hold-up comes from petitions filed by opposing parties. One party consists of a group of individuals that Powertech identifies as "intervenors." The other is a group that a laughably inept and ignorant Powertech public relations official calls "The Ogallala Sioux Tribe of Eastern South Dakota." How stupid and uninformed can these Powertech people be? First, they don't know that there is no such place as "Eastern South Dakota," then they associate a non-existent tribe called "the Ogallala Sioux" with it.
Please people, despite your corporate arrogance could you correctly identify your antagonists as the Oglala Sioux? And while you're at it, turn on Google maps and note that while there is an eastern South Dakota, there's no such place as "Eastern South Dakota." Meantime, Powertech's response to the ASLB stay notes that South Dakota's Augustana College catalog of historic sites "essentially completes" the required documentation needed for regulatory approval. My friends involved in the process are saying, not so fast. A source (sorry, no names, no genders) close to the situation tells me that Augustana's report is "clearly not complete" and that it merely consists of a "catalog of artifacts found" with no conclusions about the significance of either the artifacts or the religious importance of the proposed mining site to the Oglala Sioux tribe fighting the permit.
These are basically some of the same issues that will be raised by the same parties in the State of South Dakota hearings slated for August, so whether or not ASLB lifts its stay isn't the end of the story. No matter how hard Powertech officials try to convince themselves and the public that permitting is imminent (they claimed it would be done in 90 days last February), the delays just won't go away. This company needs to be upfront about its prospects and the difficulties it's facing in getting this project done in the Black Hills. Investors in its stock have already been burned badly enough.