By Bill Jackson
The Greeley Tribune
April 28, 2011
Ken Tarbett thinks the decision by Powertech Uranium Corp. to put its Centennial Project in northern Weld County on hold is a step in the right direction for Colorado.
“I just hope they move indefinite to infinite,” Tarbett said Thursday.
The Canadian company announced earlier this week it was putting its plans to mine uranium in northern Weld on hold indefinitely and would focus its efforts on a mining project in South Dakota. The effects of the Japanese nuclear disaster played a part in that decision, company officials said.
For Tarbett, that was welcomed news, as his horse ranch is the closest to the proposed project, northwest of Nunn.
“I can see everything right off the front deck of our home,” he said. Water, he said, is the most valuable “of our natural resources, especially up here. Without water, I can’t care for my animals.”
The project has come under fire since Powertech announced its intentions several years ago. Most area cities and towns, including Greeley and Nunn, passed resolutions opposing the project for fear it would contaminate underground water supplies not only for that area of northern Weld, but for the entire region of Weld and Larimer counties.
Powertech officials have maintained its in-situ mining process was environmentally safe, and filed a lawsuit against the state last November after the Legislature passed new rules and regulations regarding uranium mining in the state. The mining method involves injecting treated water into the ground to dissolve the uranium.
Nunn Mayor Tom Bender was not aware of the announcement by Powertech, but said the town was divided about 50-50 on the proposal.
“But I would expect the majority of the people up here did not want it, so I’m sure they are pleased and relaxed right now,” Bender said.
Weld County Commissioner Dave Long, who represents that area of the county, said while the decision in the short term is good for residents in the area, “it still doesn’t resolve the cloud that remains over them on the long term” concerning their quality of water.
Although the county was asked to take a stance one way or another on the proposal, Long said it could not because it would have to conduct the permitting process for the proposal and a resolution either way would have presented many legal problems.
Jay Davis, who lives about 8 miles northwest of Nunn, is a member of two groups that oppose the project.
“There are a lot of people who are pretty excited right now,” Davis said. But he, too, is concerned about the future.
“I think what this shows is the volatile market (for uranium) and that’s subject to change overnight,” he said. He noted that when the uranium market crashed in the 1980s, it stayed that way for nearly 30 years before rebounding and that could happen again.
“So for the long term, we could be looking at something entirely different,” Davis said.