By John Ingold
The Denver Post
January 17, 2008
Officials in both parties back rules for uranium sites. The industry prefers present law.
Northern Colorado lawmakers from both parties joined forces Wednesday to back bills that would impose strict water-quality regulations on uranium-mining companies.
One bill would essentially require mining companies, before they started drilling, to prove they could leave the groundwater they would use in the operation as clean as they found it. Another would affirm local governments' power to regulate water-quality and health standards.
"This is not an effort to stop uranium mining in Colorado," said Rep. Randy Fischer, D-Fort Collins, a bill sponsor. "It's an effort to put protections in place before it gets started."
Mining advocates said current regulations work well and that they were not consulted on the bills.
Sanderson, president of the Colorado Mining Association, said the bills may "Balkanize" the regulation of mining in Colorado by giving local governments more control over the approval process and could affect a wide variety of mining industries.
"We believe that the air- and water-quality provisions in existing law adequately account for any potential impacts on groundwater," he said.
Issues surrounding uranium mining have picked up steam in recent months as uranium prices have soared and firms have stated interest in drilling in several counties. One planned mine in Weld County, just a few miles from Fort Collins, has drawn outrage from residents.
The proposed mine would use "in-situ" mining, in which chemicals are injected into an aquifer to extract uranium from the ground.
Jeff Parsons, an attorney with the Western Mining Action Project, said the process stirs up toxic metals and can leave water contaminated.
"The threats are real that you have a continued contamination of the aquifer," Parsons said.
The Larimer County Medical Society has come out against the project.
The mining company, Powertech Inc., said in a news release that an in-situ operation in Weld County would be safe. Sanderson said in-situ mining will not affect drinking water.
"You can't do in-situ mining in areas that meet drinking-water standards," he said.
Robin Davis, who owns a ranch near the proposed mine site, said she gets drinking water from the aquifer. If the mine goes through, she said, she will be without a water supply.
John Ingold: 303-954-1068 or