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Uranium measure signed into law Print

by Jason Kosena
Fort Collins Coloradoan
May 21, 2008

DENVER - Robin Davis was so overwhelmed at the state Capitol on Tuesday when Gov. Bill Ritter asked her to step forward that she began to cry.

Standing with friends and political allies, Davis explained how grateful she was that House Bill 1161, a law strengthening uranium mining restrictions in Colorado - and more specifically her backyard - was being signed into law.

"A year ago, we felt so helpless and discouraged, and we were scared," Davis said as she wiped tears away. "I just want to say thank you to all of our local legislators."

HB 1161, sponsored by Fort Collins Democratic Reps. John Kefalas and Randy Fischer and Republican Sen. Steve Johnson, requires uranium miners to prove they can return groundwater either to pre-mining conditions or those in line with existing state standards. The bill also requires mining operations to notify nearby landowners of their intent to mine.

The legislation is important to property owners such as Davis who live northeast of Fort Collins near the site of a proposed Powertech (USA) Mining Corp. uranium mine.

Any water testing now must be completed by a third-party contractor approved by the state, a shift from former state requirements that allowed the mining company to do the testing.

The proposed Powertech mine would employ in-situ leech mining, a process where water and chemicals are injected into the ground in order to bring uranium to the surface.

Davis and her supporters were lauded by Ritter and other lawmakers for starting a grass-roots effort to get the new requirements passed through the Legislature and into law.

“This is a pretty amazing example of an engaged citizenry acting positively on something that affects their community,” Ritter said. The legislation was introduced in the House to encompass almost all mining operations in Colorado. But after hard-rock mining advocates protested, the bill’s language was watered down to include only proposed in-situ leech uranium mines in Colorado.

Fischer, an engineer, said he spent many years working in mining reclamation and saw a need for the bill after Davis and others approached him and Kefalas last year.

“I have traveled all over the world cleaning up abandoned mine sites, and there is a huge legacy of abandoned sites that are leaking toxic waste and heavy metals into the groundwater,” Fischer said. “Having this bill signed today represents a unique opportunity … to make sure we protect groundwater and our environment before a new kind of mining technology is brought to use – not after.”

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