by Andrew Villegas
The Greeley Tribune
January 3, 2008
A proposed uranium mine near Nunn could raise $3 million per year in taxes but it also could have an unforeseen human cost.
Two sides of a debate about the Centennial Project mine met at a Fort Collins Rotary Club meeting Wednesday afternoon amid growing concerns from neighbors that a mine could harm northern Colorado's water and its residents' health.
Representatives of Powertech Uranium Corp. a Canadian company and developers of the proposed mine, told dozens of Rotary members that the mine will be safe and that it would go through a reclamation phase after the minerals are extracted from sandstone under the surface to return the site to its natural state. The whole process, from mining to cleanup, could take as long as 20 years.
Powertech officials are working to get state and federal permits to start the mining and will submit a plan for approval by the Board of Weld County Commissioners in December. Officials say the mine could raise nearly $3 million per year in taxes for the state and local communities.
Powertech owns the mineral rights to 5,760 acres of land in the project and officials estimate 9.7 million pounds of uranium lie beneath that land. Since the project was first introduced in August, residents have been staunchly against the project, collecting almost 6,000 signatures in opposition. The Fort Collins City Council has adopted a resolution against the mine, and opponents are trying to get other cities and towns to follow suit. Local legislators have promised legislation this year to protect groundwater by raising mining safety standards.
Richard Blaubaugh, with Powertech, said the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has said the in-situ leaching method Powertech will use to get the uranium out of the ground poses no long-term negative health impacts for people or the environment.
Meanwhile, Lilias Jones Jarding, with Coloradoans Against Resource Destruction, said the mine will cause health risks to people living near the site.
"It's highly unusual for a company to be mining in people's drinking water," said Jarding, who added that Texas environmental officials have found that water at uranium mine sites in that state has never returned to normal.
"Uranium operations have been stopped in the past, and we can stop them here," she said.
Al Schorre, a lawyer who lives in Fort Collins, said property values at his farm one mile west of the site already have declined by $38,000 in one year because of the proposed mine. He also has health concerns and said he may not let his grandchildren visit his farm if the mine is approved.
Schorre said his farm is "not sellable right now," and that Powertech has not offered nearby residents compensation.
Blaubaugh said health worries of nearby residents remain a concern to Powertech officials and that the company will be working with residents to alleviate concerns.
While Blaubaugh is touting the economic benefits the mine would bring, Schoree said the mine might have the opposite effect.
"From my perspective, there will be no economic activity going on in north Weld County until this thing is solved," Schoree said, "which means Weld County is losing money."
Representatives from Powertech and Coloradoans Against Resource Destruction will attend a public hearing on the proposed uranium mine near Nunn at 6 p.m. Jan. 14 at the Harmony Library, at the corner of Shields Street and Harmony Road in Fort Collins.