Weld County may contain a new uranium-mining site as Denver-based Powertech Uranium Corporation continues to push for the required permits for the Centennial Project, against the wishes of some northern Colorado residents.
The proposed mining site, which includes 5,760 acres of uranium in Weld County, would be located approximately 11 miles outside of Fort Collins, according to the Larimer County Web site.
Uranium is used in many countries for creating nuclear power, or energy.
Coloradans Against Resource Destruction (C.A.R.D.) is a group in Northern Colorado that is committed to preventing the development of the mine. On of the group’s main concerns is that uranium mining will cause water contamination and, therefore, consumption by residents in the area. And consumption of uranium can cause a higher risk of cancer.
According to its Web site, C.A.R.D. is aiming “to protect northern Colorado from the environmental, health and economic impacts of uranium mining by Powertech or any other mining company.”
“My biggest concern is radioactive pollution in the water, land and air,” Weston Sands, a junior psychology major, said. “Everywhere there is a mine, there has been a leak.”
In-situ leaching (ISL) or in-situ recovery mining will be used to extract the uranium from the sandstone formations underground. Unlike conventional mining, ISL involves injecting alkaline chemicals into the groundwater, which dissolves the uranium within the sandstone, and is then pumped out and processed.
ISL re-circulates the wastewater produced from the pumping and Powertech says they will minimize the consumption of that water.
“No matter what guarantee a company makes, there is always a leak and we want to know who’s going to clean it up,” Sands said.
Contamination of the groundwater in mines in Texas, Wyoming and South Dakota has occurred in the wake of ISL mining. Although, ISL mining is considered less harmful than traditional mining practices, the risk of contamination is still high.
Trying to reach the community and CSU students, Sands created a Facebook group, “Stop Uranium Mining in Colorado,” where members can get information and sign a petition against the mine.
Town meetings in Ault and Fort Collins have also yielded large numbers speaking about this issue.
“Citizens should be informed of what is silently being proposed 11 miles north of Fort Collins,” Sands said. “Citizens that have been informed usually take interest and are concerned by this issue.”
Although actual mining has not yet commenced, Powertech is undergoing environmental testing and must prove to many review boards that mining will not harm the land or people in surrounding areas.
According to a Powertech spokeswoman, the Colorado state statute requires that five consecutive quarters of baseline data must be collected.
Beginning in July, Powertech commenced with their drilling operations and environmental data collection, which is projected to be finished by the end of next year.
“Powertech intends to submit applications for permits to the U.S. EPA, Colorado Department of Natural Resources Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and Weld County in the latter part of 2008,” said Richard Blubaugh, vice president of environmental health and safety resources for Powertech, “The company intends to follow all regulations for its in-situ uranium recovery project.”
Regulations in Colorado call for a leaching solution that is acid free, so that the restoration of the area does not take as long. Powertech says that they neither intend nor plan to use an acidic recovery solution.
While concern is the pollution of the aquifer and its water supply, Powertech says that the recovery solution will not spread outside of the ore deposit because of the impermeable mudstone layers above and below the ore zone.
The public’s opinion influences how the state regulates uranium-mining permits.
“Public input is a very important part of the permit application review by federal, state and local regulators,” Blubaugh said. “Members of the local community and the general public will have the opportunity for input on each application.”
For more information on C.A.R.D. visit www.nunnglow.com. For more information on uranium mining visit www.powertechuranium.com or call (303) 898-4240.
Senior reporter Ricki Dugdale can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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