by Debbie Bell
Canon City Daily Record
April 2, 2008
Commission recommends denial for Tallahassee area
Critics of exploratory uranium drilling in the Tallahassee area broke into resounding applause Tuesday night, when the Fremont County Planning Commission recommended denial of the required Conditional Use Permit by a split 4-3 vote.
Black Range Minerals, the Australian company seeking to drill about 800 test holes on the Taylor and Boyer ranches, next will seek the blessing of the Fremont County Commissioners despite Tuesday’s outcome, which was a non-binding recommendation.
Citing potential adverse impact on property values, noise, unsightly views, water contamination, increased traffic, and even county liability in the unlikely event of a catastrophic incident, panel members Tom Doxey, Tom Piltingsrud, Mike Schnobrich and Dean Sandoval voted to deny the permit.
Commissioners Bill Jackson, Keith McNew and Herm Lateer cast votes in favor of the exploratory drilling.
“I feel we don’t have a legal way to turn the permit down,” McNew said.
However, Doxey took issue with BRM neglecting to apply for the CUP in a timely manner. The company began exploration last year, drilling about 70 test holes, before the county stepped in to stop the operations.
“I’m disappointed this company… forgot to check with little Fremont County if there were any licenses or permits” required, Doxey said.
BRM Managing Director Mike Haynes apologized for the oversight during the meeting.
“We did obtain what we believed were the only necessary permits” from the state, Haynes said. Although BRM is an international company, he said it never has been required to obtain a local permit when the state had issued appropriate licensing.
In compliance with new county regulations, BRM was charged double the typical amount for the local application process because of the oversight.
Although the 3 1/2-hour marathon meeting was not a formal public hearing, the Planning Commissioners allowed input from the capacity crowd. They got an earful, both for and against the BRM permit request.
Tom Pool, a mining engineer from Golden, presented petitions signed by the owners of some 80 parcels of land, who were in favor of the exploration drilling.
“Our general view is that uranium exploration contributes to the energy independence of the United States of America,” Pool said, “and uranium exploration, developing and mining contribute to the mitigation of global warming.”
However, for every positive opinion, property owners presented additional negative views.
“This is where we came to spend the rest of our lives,” said Nancy Seger. “We can hear the noise 24 hours a day. We can see it. Our quality of life is going to be changed.”
Michael Meyrick submitted a five-page memo outlining legal concerns, including potential liability to the county.
“If you approve it and they contaminate it, the jury determines the amount of damages you and they – if they’re even still around – are responsible for,” Meyrick said. “I urge you not to approve this.”
BRM’s submitted plan asks for 10 years to drill an estimated 800 holes across 8,169 acres generally south of CR 2 and west of the intersection of CR2 and CR 21, while actually using only about half that land. The property is zoned Agricultural-Forestry, which is the county’s lowest-density zone and permits activity such as uranium mining.
If the appropriate permits are eventually received, and the exploratory drilling proves to be economically viable, BRM hopes to create a state-of-the-art facility, including a new mill to process the uranium.
Residents again will have the opportunity to voice their opinions when the Fremont County Commissioners host the required, formal public hearing on the permit. That forum could take place during the May 13 regularly-scheduled meeting.
Piltingsrud acknowledged the Planning Commission acts merely as an advisory panel to the County Commissioners.
“They sometimes follow our lead,” Piltingsrud said, “and they sometimes don’t follow our lead.”
Debbie Bell may be reached at