By Kevin Duggan
Fort Collins Coloradon
February 15, 2008
A report on uranium mining from a Larimer County-appointed advisory board does not take a stand on how officials should react to a mining operation proposed for Weld County.
The report from the Environmental Advisory Board details the risk from uranium mining in general - including the potential for contamination to the water, land and air.
But it does not recommend a stance for the county commissioners on the controversial Centennial project proposed by Powertech Uranium Corp.
That was not the advisory board's charge, said member David Gilkey, an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences at Colorado State University.
The board did not have enough information specific to the Centennial project to determine whether it would adversely affect Larimer County, he said. But the report offers detailed background on uranium mining and its environmental risks.
"There is a lot of good information in there that I think people will find useful," Gilkey said.
Powertech has proposed using an in-situ recovery process, which uses treated water to dissolve and extract uranium from sandstone deep beneath the prairie surface, in an area between Wellington and Nunn.
The company owns mineral rights on more than 5,700 acres and an estimated 4,700 tons of uranium ore. Powertech expects to apply for permits to mine the ore from local, state and federal regulators by the end of the year.
Commissioner Randy Eubanks said he found the report to be thorough and well sourced but hoped it would offer a clear "thumbs up or thumbs down" on the project.
The commissioners need solid information when deciding their position on the Centennial proposal, he said.
"I'd like to see the commissioners take a stance one way or the other and be a voice for Larimer County before the permitting authorities," he said.
The commissioners also should be prepared for the possibility that uranium mining could come to Larimer County, he said.
"We have to have an understanding of the risks," he said.
The report notes the quality of groundwater around the mining site could be adversely affected by the in-situ process, but local municipal water supplies are not likely to be impacted because they draw from watersheds to the west.
It also notes that risks from mining go beyond environmental concerns. Public health and economic factors also must be weighed, according to the report.
The commissioners have scheduled a public hearing on the Centennial project Feb. 25. Powertech and a group organized to fight the proposed mine - Coloradoans Against Resource Destruction, or CARD - will be given time to make presentations, Eubanks said. Members of the public also will be allowed to speak.
Larimer County does not have the authority to block the project.