MAC: Mines and Communities

Colorado may ban uranium mine

Published by MAC on 2009-11-02

It's surely eminently reasonable that any company, bent on constructing a potentially polluting mine, must put its proposal to the test of past experience.

As yet, however, only one state - Wisconsin in the USA - bars new (sulphide) mine projects, unless proponents can point to a mine that has neither caused pollution while operating, nor done so for at least ten years after closure.

Last year, the Colorado Senate passed a bill precluding the permitting of in-situ (leach) uranium mines, without proof that five similar operations hadn't damaged groundwater. See:

Implementation of the Act awaits further public discussion and a hearing in December.

Meanwhile, one proposed in-situ uranium is in abeyance.

Powertech would have to cite examples of successful cleanups

By Bobby Magill, The Colorandon

18 October 2009

The state on Tuesday will issue a revision of proposed rules that will determine how a potential uranium mine northeast of Fort Collins will be required to prevent groundwater contamination near the mine.

The rules will directly affect Powertech USA's proposed Centennial Project uranium mine between Wellington and Nunn. If built, the project will be an in situ leach uranium mine, which many in the region fear could contaminate the area's groundwater.

Already, city and town councils in Fort Collins, Greeley, Nunn, Wellington and other cities have passed resolutions opposing the mine because of its potential impact on area water quality.

If approved, the proposed rules will implement a 2008 law, House Bill 1161, which regulates in situ uranium mines across the state, requiring mining companies to return the groundwater around an in situ leach mine to the same quality it was prior to mining.

Before the state can issue an in situ leach mining permit, the law requires mining companies to cite five examples of other similar mining operations that did not harm groundwater.

On Friday, the draft rules were still being revised, and changes were still being made throughout the document based on public comments the state Office of Mined Land Reclamation had received, office director David Berry said.

The rules and the law will "provide a minimum level of protection for groundwater from in situ uranium mining," said Jeff Parsons of the Western Mining Action Project in Boulder. "Powertech's proposal is in an inappropriate place surrounded by water wells on all sides."

In a Soapbox printed in the Coloradoan Oct. 1, Powertech Chief Operations Officer Wallace M. Mays said the company supports "rational, well-tailored" state rules.

After the revised rules are issued Tuesday, the public will have until Nov. 10 to submit comments. A hearing will be Dec. 3.

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