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Company may soon begin uranium exploration for mine near Keota Print

by Andrew Villegas
Greeley Tribune
April 30, 2008

A ghost town in northern Colorado could prove to be the battleground for another fight over uranium mining as a Grand Junction-based company prepares to launch its own campaign to extract the resource.

According to Weld County records, Geovic Mining Corp. has signed mining leases with nearly 130 landowners near Keota in the past year in preparation to mine uranium.

The price of uranium and demand for alternative energies have recently fueled speculation for the mineral -- especially in places such as mineral-rich northern Colorado -- after high overhead, low prices and environmental concerns forced many energy companies to abandon the mining in the 1980s. Uranium prices are at about $65 per pound, down from a high of nearly $140 per pound in July 2007, but up from a low of around $7 per pound in 2000.

The company is early in the process, but Andy Hoffman, Geovic's vice president of investor relations, said the resources are clearly present in Weld. They have to file any permitting requests with the county.

Former Unocal employees who are now employed by Geovic first established there was uranium in the area in the 1970s, according to a 2007 earnings report released in early April.

Exploratory drilling will be done to affirm the presence of the uranium before other studies are done, according to the earnings report.

Hoffman said approval of the mining is a delicate political process. He said he wanted to have a chance to speak with the president of his company to get the latest on the project before releasing further information.

Geovic -- which reported a net loss of $6.8 million in 2006 and $7.8 million 2007 -- focuses mostly on mining cobalt in Cameroon. The company spent $2.8 million to acquire mineral leases on 15,500 acres of land in northern Colorado and southeastern Wyoming, according to the earnings report.

In the report, officials indicated that the uranium deposits are in roll-front formations of sandstone 120-600 feet below the surface. That is similar to the Canadian-firm Powertech Uranium Corporation's uranium mine proposal for a mine near Nunn.

Lilias Jarding, an outspoken opponent of that mine said Geovic's plan to mine is one of six proposed uranium mining operations in northern Colorado.

It's been difficult for the public to find out anything about the projects, however, because Colorado law keeps nearly every aspect of a proposed mining operation secret, Jarding said.

"Nobody knows about these exploration permits until they decide to tell somebody," Jarding said.

Meanwhile, some Colorado lawmakers are trying to make it easier for residents to find out about proposed mining efforts in their area.

House Bill 1161 would require companies such as Powertech and Geovic to clean groundwater at their sites to pre-mining quality after a company finishes mining the radioactive material.

A second bill -- Senate Bill 228 -- would make prospecting for minerals a matter of public record while protecting the proprietary rights of mineral owners. That bill passed the state Senate on Monday and now heads to the House for consideration before the legislature adjourns next week.

A similar bill -- HB 1165, which also would have required mining companies to make public their intent to prospect -- died in committee in early April.




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