Northern Colorado Business Report
February 14, 2008
FORT COLLINS -- A 20-page report compiled by the Larimer County Environmental Advisory Board and released this week offers no specific recommendations to county commissioners regarding a proposed uranium mining operation in nearby Weld County.
The EAB's report concludes that, "in the absence of sound scientific data, an acceptable risk assessment is not currently possible" but does caution officials about possible adverse effects of a uranium mining operation.
"Mining operations carry with them the potential for significant environmental impacts," the report concludes. "Water, soil and air contamination are all possible with the operations that may be conducted in Weld County. The probabilities associated with these impacts are not presently known. Without a risk assessment, detailed project descriptions or access to baseline data the EAB is unable to make recommendations regarding the ... project at this time."
The "Report on In-Situ Leach and Open-Pit Mining" was requested by county commissioners after county residents expressed concerns about a plan by Powertech USA to mine uranium on about 5,700 acres just east of the Larimer County line and about nine miles west of Nunn. Powertech USA has been conducting preliminary drilling and baseline information gathering at the site but has not yet applied for a mining permit from the state. The company has said it plans to begin submitting application documents in late 2008 and hopes to begin mining operations in 2010.
Commissioner Randy Eubanks said the report offers good information even without making specific recommendations. "My first thought was I would have liked to have seen an absolute thumbs-up or -down recommendation," he said. "But (the report) does make points about the risk of such an operation."
Powertech will face a lengthy review process before a mining permit is issued, including review and comment by Weld County officials. Eubanks said even though Larimer County will have no official input, it is still a very interested observer of the situation. "This uranium field doesn't stop at the county line and it could be part of our future," he said.
The EAB report focuses on the history of uranium mining in Colorado and examines both open-pit and in-situ mining methods. Powertech officials have stated they intend to use the in situ process, which involves injecting chemically treated water into drill holes to loosen and remove the uranium deposits, but the company has not completely ruled out the possibility of some open-pit mining.
The company has also vowed not to negatively impact water supplies and to clean up the site after the mining is complete.
Larimer County will hold a public meeting on Powertech's proposed project on Feb. 25. The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the hearing room of the Larimer County Courthouse, 200 W. Oak St., in Fort Collins. The meeting will be televised and broadcast live on the county's web site.