by Meghan Murphy
August 23, 2007
Although uranium mining is several years and permits away from becoming reality in northern Colorado, H. Mike Williams already sees its impact. Williams said his property value on 80 acres in Carr has dipped below what he paid for it only seven years ago.
Williams confronted Powertech Uranium Corp. project manager Lane Douglas on Wednesday night at the Ault VFW. About 200 people were there to hear a presentation by Coloradans Against Resource Destruction on uranium mining and its potential impacts.
"You're destroying my family and my 200 neighbors in that area," Williams said. Powertech owns mineral rights on Williams' property.
Powertech bought mineral rights on 5,760 acres of land in northern Weld County from Anadarko Petroleum Corp. last year. The company plans to capitalize on high uranium prices by drilling wells and extracting the mineral from local lands, which they say is at least three years away. First, the company must obtain state and federal permits, and a land-use change from Weld County.
Aside from addressing economic impacts, the presenters Wednesday discussed how uranium mining may harm the environment and public health. Activist Ami Wangeline, who received a doctorate degree in biology, botony and philosophy from Colorado State University in the spring, raised concerns about the large amount of waste associated with uranium mining. For every 5 pounds of uranium extracted from an open pit mine, she said there are about 9,990 pounds of leftover material. Other uranium sites have built up tailings piles that when washed away by wind or rain, contaminated groundwater.
She also discussed how waste could result in high levels of selenium in vegetation. She pointed to news articles about mass livestock die-offs from poisoning by the mineral. Her cohort, Lilias Jones Jarding, a Fort Collins environmental policy consultant, covered uranium mining's potential health impacts. Quoting the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, she said that the type of mining Powertech plans to do is more environmentally beneficial but still tends to contaminate groundwater.
Farmers, homeowners and politicians all seemed swayed by the presentation. Many asked what they could do to stop Powertech and one even questioned why Weld County commissioners hadn't showed up to the meeting.
"This looks even scarier than we thought," said Liv Lyons, a Weld County resident who lives near the potential mine site. "It's really important that people come out and stop this now."
Douglas declined to comment about the meeting.