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Gov. Ritter Signs Uranium Mining Water Protection Bill Print

Denver. May 20, 2008. Gov. Bill Ritter today signed into law a measure that will strengthen water-protection, reclamation and other requirements as the state experiences a resurgence of uranium mining.

House Bill 1161, called the "Land and Water Stewardship Act of 2008" by supporters, was sponsored by Reps. John Kefalas and Randy Fischer and Sens. Steve Johnson and Bob Bacon. It stems from a proposal by a Canadian-based company to begin in situ leach mining in Weld County. The process uses high-pressure water injection to extract uranium from the earth.

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"This bill strikes a good balance," Gov. Ritter said. "It allows for in situ uranium leach mining while taking into consideration the need to protect both ground and surface water supplies.

"When it comes to natural resource issues, we're doing all we can to strike that balance across the board," Gov. Ritter said. "Colorado is rich in minerals and energy resources such as oil, natural gas and coal. But we also are rich in environmental resources such as clean water, incredible wildlife and rugged mountains that must be protected."

"This bill will ensure the protection of our groundwater supplies, the public's health and private-property rights, while also allowing the industry to operate in Colorado," Rep. Kafalas said.

"This bill has been called one of the most important pieces of legislation ever for Northern Colorado -- and I think it is," Sen. Johnson said. "We succeeded with this bill in ensuring that our groundwater will be protected."

The legislation strengthens reclamation requirements and notification requirements to nearby landowners. Other elements of the legislation:

  • Requires that mining applicants not have any existing violations to the Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Act or analogous acts issued by other states or the federal government.
  • Requires a description of at least five such operations that demonstrate that the proposed operation will not contaminate groundwater outside the permit area.
  • Requires a baseline site characterization and monitoring plan.
  • Outlines the criteria for the Mined Land Reclamation Board to deny or revoke a permit for in situ leach uranium mining.
  • Defines all uranium mining operations, whether in situ leach or conventional, as Designated Mining Operations, and requires existing permitted conventional operations to develop Environmental Protection Plans and contingency plans for possible failures at their sites. Also expands oversight by the state Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety during construction. There are 32 permitted conventional operations in the state -- three of which are in production.

The signing of this legislation bought a tearful thank-you from Robin Davis, who has an 80-acre ranch near Nunn in northeast Colorado. Davis feared a proposed uranium mine would contaminate her water and destroy her dream of setting up a nature program for school children.

"A year ago we felt helpless. We discovered there were no regulations to protect water. As we know, water is life. We were very scared," Davis said before Ritter signed the bill.

The Colorado Mining Association said the law is one of the toughest in the country and called on state regulators to carefully write the rules implementing it.

Read all about it:

Greeley Tribune (May 21, 2008): Governor signs water-protection bill by Rebecca Boyle

Loveland Reporter-Herald (May 21, 2008): Mining bill will protect water: New law takes effect on July 1 by Pamela Dickman

Fort Collins Coloradoan (May 21, 2008): Uranium measure signed into law by Jason Kosena

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