The Atomic Safety and Licensing Board of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has ordered a temporary hold on the licence to operate the Powertech Uranium’s Edgemont, South Dakota mine, citing further studies.
The stay order was announced after the Oglala Sioux Tribe, along with other groups, claimed that the projects could cause serious damage to historic and cultural sites in the Black Hills, according to Associated Press.
The federal panel had issued a final source and by-product materials licence for Powertech’s Dewey-Burdock project earlier in April.
However, the board announced that the move was taken to safeguard the historic and cultural resources, by preventing any immediate and irreversible harm because of earthwork or ground disturbance at the Dewey-Burdock project.
Powertech project manager Mark Hollenbeck was quoted by the news agency as saying that the hold on the licence wouldn’t affect the operation, since the company still needs approval from other agencies before it could commence the project.
The uranium company has scheduled the facility construction in 2015.
Western Mining Action Project and attorney of the tribe Jeffrey Parsons said that a credible scientific study must be undertaken to make sure the mining process doesn’t destroy historic and prehistoric sites.
"We’re talking about everything from camps to gravesites out there," Parsons said.
The Atomic Safety and Licensing Board stated that the decision for calling off or continuing the stay would be taken after oral arguments.
The schedule for hearings has not yet been fixed.
Meanwhile, Powertech is yet to secure approval from the US Environmental Protection Agency, while the state Board of Minerals and Environment and state Water Management Board have suspended hearings until the federal agencies make their decisions.