by Kevin Duggan
Fort Collins Coloradoan
January 3, 2008
Powertech touts revenue boost; citizens worry about groundwater contamination
Uranium mining operations proposed east of Wellington would either benefit Northern Colorado or cause it irreparable harm.
Those were some of the messages delivered Wednesday to the Fort Collins Rotary Club by representatives of both sides of the debate over the Centennial Project, a proposal to extract uranium ore from sandstone buried beneath the Weld County prairie.
The 20-year project would boost tax revenue for the state, as well as Weld and Larimer counties, said Richard Blubaugh, vice president of environment, health and safety for Powertech (USA), which has proposed the project.
The company would use water treated with oxygen and sodium bicarbonate pumped through wells to dissolve and remove the ore. The process, known as in-situ recovery, has been used successfully around the country, Blubaugh said.
But Lilias Jarding of Coloradoans Against Resource Destruction, or CARD, which is opposed to the proposal, said the in-situ process could contaminate groundwater with heavy metals and radiation.
Having a uranium operation less than 10 miles from Fort Collins would damage the city's image, she said, hurting prospects for commercial and residential development.
"Uranium operations have been stopped in the past, and we can stop them here," she said.
Audience members were divided in their reaction to the presentations. Rotary member Bob Meroney said any form of energy development has consequences, including wind and solar power.
Meroney added he would be more concerned about the Centennial project if it involved open-pit or strip mining, which he would oppose.
"This sounds like something where they will be able to do it, and in a few years, you'll never know anybody had been there," he said.
Company officials say they plan to use the in-situ process but have not ruled out a pit mine.
Al Schorre, who owns horse property west of the project area, said the mining process could devastate local property values and damage water supplies.
Schorre said he's been to several meetings about the project and is still seeking answers.
"Powertech has yet to tell anybody, 'Here's how we're going to protect your water' or, 'Here's how we're going to warn you if something goes wrong,'" he said. "And they never mention how they are going to compensate loss of value to your real estate or if they pollute or poison your water. They just don't address it."
Powertech owns mineral rights on 5,760 acres in Weld County.
The company expects to file applications with state and federal regulatory agencies to mine the ore next December, Blubaugh said.