Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Uranium Mine Rep Hollenbeck To Be A No-Show At Now-Cancelled Rapid City Forum. Claims "Litigation". I Call BS.

got an e-mail yesterday from the organizers of the Black Hills Forum And Press Club that
In Situ Mine In Crow Butte, NE
What Azarga Wants To Do In The Black Hills
(photo from rapidcityjournal.com)
this Friday's luncheon has been cancelled.  
The meeting was to be a "debate" between Rapid City attorney Bruce Ellison and Azarga Uranium spokesman Mark Hollenbeck.  The scheduled topic was the proposed in situ uranium mine that Azarga wants to develop in the southern Black Hills, with Ellison speaking against it and Hollenbeck supporting it.  Azarga's process alters the chemical composition of the region's groundwater forever.  As you can imagine, Azarga's reassurances notwithstanding, a lot of folks, me included, are uncomfortable with the process.  They have organized and built an anti-uranium mining coalition that is officially recognized as "Consolidated Intervenors" by federal regulatory authorities.  The Intervenors succeeded over the years at forcing delays in Azarga's permitting process that has put the project years behind its original projections.  At one point in 2014 the company claimed that "facility construction is tentatively set to begin in 2015," a fiction that has long since been set aside. The company is now looking for permitting issues to be resolved at the end of 2016, a projection that seems as dubious now as their 2015 prediction did a year ago, considering that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission just put an indefinite extension on its review of Azarga's application.

     Anyway, all this was scheduled to get aired out during a two-hour session on Friday, but Mark Hollenbeck, per an e-mail I received (more specifically, it was forwarded to me and what
The Clean Water Alliance
Why Won't The Miners Talk To Us?
(photo from www.facebook.com)
looks like several hundred other people) from Bruce Ellison, organizers told Ellison that Hollenbeck couldn't appear "due to pending litigation."  
Ellison calls Hollenbeck's explanation "specious" on two levels, the first being that Hollenbeck is not a party to any litigation, but an employee of a party (Azarga) who has testified about his knowledge of the proposed mine.  I don't get that one, either, but I do get the second point that Ellison makes, which is that the referenced litigation involves the geological/environmental aspect of in situ mining itself.   Here's the full text of the e-mail (note that "Lilias" is Lilias Jarding, who heads up the Clean Water Alliance:  "
The discussion of the impacts of proposed ISL uranium mining in and affecting water resources in the Black Hills was cancelled after Hollenbeck claimed he could not be part of such a discussion due to pending "litigation."  I told the organizers that this was specious as Hollenbeck is not a Party to any litigation CWA is involved in, but an employee of a party who has already testified under oath about his "knowledge" of AZARGA/Powertech's proposed ISL mine NE of Edgemont.  Hollenbeck's claim of "litigation" as a bar to his participation in the short forum was further specious since it was not about CWA's challenges to permit applications proceedings, but the geological/environmental aspects of ISL mining.  And, Hollenbeck may have agreed to participate if someone other than me represented the protect the water side.  Unfortunately, Lilias was unable to be my substitute.

I told one of the organizers that to cancel the forum on the basis that "fairness" required cancellation since one "side" refused to participate, gave those who would risk water resources for personal economic gain, control over whether the community heard anything about or discussed the issue.   Seems unfortunate that this collection of young professional in our Black Hills community which gathers to discuss local issues, will to date, not have an important discussion about water."

     As this event has been scheduled for at least a month, probably longer, and the "litigation" referenced has been in the works for probably much longer than that, I have to be skeptical about Hollenbeck's reason for cancelling. Considering the amount of heat that Azarga has been taking over this mine, the company's appearance at this high-profile forum would have been a great opportunity to present its case to a large and involved group of Black Hills residents.  Why they chose to pass it up is their business, but from my vantage point it looks to me like they're backing away from public scrutiny.
     I invite Hollenbeck or any other spokesman from Azarga to set me straight if I'm wrong.


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  2. John,
    If you want to inform people on what the consequences of that ISL mine would be, just publish the submitted testimonies of the expert witnesses that is on the NRC site..mine, Hannan LaGarry, and Robert Moran. That will speak volumes.

  3. "Specious", "BS", take your pick ... kinda means the same thing. Both are equally applicable in this situation (IMO).