by Andrew Villegas,
April 3, 2008
A bill that would have required mine operators to notify the public about mining prospects without revealing proprietary information died in a state House committee Wednesday afternoon.
The bill -- HB 1165 -- was a companion bill to HB 1161, which places groundwater quality restrictions on uranium mining in Colorado and passed the full House on a bipartisan vote Monday. That bill now moves to the Senate.
The bills were carried by Reps. Randy Fischer and John Kefalas, both Fort Collins Democrats, who helped draft the bills after their constituents began opposing a proposed uranium mine under about 270 acres of land on property near Nunn. Canadian firm Powertech Uranium Corp. is preparing a proposal for the uranium leach mine using "in-situ" -- literally "in-place" -- methods.
At issue on HB 1165 among lawmakers were the public's right to know what type of mining may occur near their homes versus the desire to keep the business decisions and proprietary secrets of miners safe. Other lawmakers also expressed concern that the bill would apply to all mining, not just uranium mining.
The bill failed in the House agriculture and natural resources committee by a vote of 7-6 Wednesday. The vote was largely along party lines after lawmakers spent nearly 30 minutes trying to amend the bill to make it amenable to both parties. The committee postponed the measure indefinitely, effectively killing the measure for this legislative session. Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, a member of the committee voted no on the bill.
Rep. Frank McNulty, R- Highlands Ranch, who opposed the bill, said the public certainly has a right to know about what is going on near their homes from prospectors but that the bill as written would have exposed too much of what prospectors can keep secret -- things such as how much mineral is in the ground -- under Colorado law.
Others said prospector transparency in the mining process is imperative information for the public.
"I do believe in my heart of hearts that this is important public policy that should not be left undone in this session," said Fischer, also a member of the committee. "It will benefit the community to know at least a little bit more about what's happening in their communities."
HB 1161, which would place greater restrictions on uranium mining and its effect on ground water in Colorado, will most likely be introduced in the state Senate next week. HB 1161, which would place greater restrictions on uranium mining and its effect on ground water in Colorado, will most likely be introduced in the state Senate next week.