Saturday, June 12, 2010

Western Lands Uranium Gopher for June 12, 2010

Ufranium prospectingThis blog post is a round-up of several articles previously published in Fuel Cycle Week by International Nuclear Associates, Washington, DC.

Ur-Energy gets Wyoming UIC permit

The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (WDEQ) gave final approval June 1 for a Class I Underground Injection Control Permit (UIC Permit) which authorizes Ur-Energy (AMEX:URG) to drill, complete and operate up to five Class I non-hazardous injection wells at the Lost Creek site, an ISR mine located in Sweetwater County, Wyo, northwest of Rawlins.

Rich Boberg, a spokesman for the company, told FCW the permit is a major milestone and the firm expects to get its Wyoming mining permit and its NRC source materials license later this summer.

"At that point we will start construction, Boberg said. He added the firm has spent $24 million so far on the project.

According to Boberg, production in 2011 could ramp up to 1 million pounds. Two other nearby sites, one north, the other south, of the main site, may eventually bring in another 1 million pounds a year. The company claims on its website the adjacent sites could hold an additional 24 million pounds of uranium, but it has not issued yet issued an NI 43-101 report on that resource.

Separately, the firm also announced June 1 a CDN$5 million brokered private placement with Blackrock Inc. The proceeds will be used to support exploratory drilling on its Lost Creek property and for general corporate purposes.

Boberg said the firm is pushing hard to bring the mines into production. He pointed to recent developments in Canada saying their high quality ore presents a competitive presence in the market relative to ISR mine production in the West.

Colorado legislature bears down on Cotter Mill cleanup

The Colorado State Senate voted 24-9 the last week of April to pass a bill requiring uranium mills in the state to clean up legacy mill tailings and other waste before generating or accepting new radioactive materials. The bill has targeted a single site in its crosshairs, which is Cotter's mill in Canon City, located in Fremont County west of Colorado Springs. The mill has been a source of contamination and controversy since it was designated as an EPA Superfund site in 1984.

Plans to build new heap leach capabilities at the site, with an opening date of 2014, prompted area legislators to change existing law. Prior to passage of the bill in the Senate, which earlier this year passed handily in the House, uranium mills in Colorado could postpone cleanup and decommissioning costs as long as they were in production.

HB 1348 will require uranium mills to comply with cleanup orders before applications for new operations would be considered by state regulators. The bill strengthens public scrutiny of bonds for reclamation of mill sites and adds notification requirements regarding contamination of wells near mills used for drinking water.

The bill was sponsored by state legislators from Canon City and Pueblo. Statewide environmental groups added lobbying muscle to local supporters. Matt Carrington, a spokesman for Environment Colorado, told the Canon City Daily Record, " The days of uranium companies forcing communities to live with pollution are over."

State Sen. Ken Kester, one of the sponsors of the legislation, said, "Actions have consequences, and uranium companies need to clean up their mess." Kester represents Fremont County which is home to the Cotter Mill.

Over the past few months Cotter VP John Hamrick told the legislature, the news media, and anyone who would listen the bill will prevent the mill from processing ore from a New Mexico uranium mine near Mt. Taylor to be opened in 2014. He said the company is thinking about a challenge to the state law in court on the grounds the mill can continue operation as long as cleanup of groundwater contamination is taking place.

If the bill is allowed to stand, Hamrick said the mill might be forced to close. Cotter has estimated the new mill would include $200 million in capital investment and create 80 high paying jobs. Pueblo Rep. Buffie McFadyen says Cotter is mistaken that the bill will force the mill to close. She says it only imposes new requirements in the planned expansion not current operations.

While Hamrick has repeatedly pointed to an as yet unnamed mine in New Mexico as the source of new ore, he has not mentioned to the news media the developing uranium mine in his backyard. Black Range Minerals (ASX:BLR), an Australian miner, has been developing the Taylor Ranch mine in the Tallahassee Creek District of Fremont County less than 50 miles west of the Cottter Mill site in Canon City. The miner has published resource estimates which, if confirmed by operations, would make it a significant producer.

Uranium in Denver reservoir?

Cotter is in trouble at another mine along the Colorado Front Range. The Schwartzwalder mine, located near Golden, Colorado, just west of Denver, is contaminating groundwater with uranium which flows via a creek into the Ralston reservoir used for drinking water by the City of Denver. Last winter Colorado mining regulators warned Cotter "water degradation of the mine may require emergency response." The regulators rejected a plan by Cotter to deal with the issue as "inadequate," and declared the closed mine "a potential hazard to human health, property, and the environment."

Cotter VP John Hamrick issued a statement in response admitting the contamination coming from the mine exceeds water quality standards, but he denied in response to news media inquiries that it is getting into the reservoir.

The Denver Water Board and environmental groups are demanding that Cotter dig up the creek bed receiving the uranium contaminated water from the mine and put in a pump and treat facility. Cotter responded its plan will do the job which includes creating an artificial wetland to filter out the uranium.

Cotter acquired the Schwartzwalder mine in 1965. The property was developed as a hard rock underground mine. The firm reports total production from the Schwartzwalder has been approximately 17 million pounds U3O8. Based on long-term forecasts in 2000 for a weak uranium market, Cotter placed the mine on standby and begin reclamation of the property.

Update June 9, 2010

Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter signed the uranium cleanup law June 9, 2010, in Canon City. He said he does not oppose uranium mining in the state, but that miners must meet their cleanup responsibilities.

Also, Cotter Corp. has been ordered by the Colorado health department to stop discharging polluted water into Ralston Creek.

According to a wire service report, Department spokesman Mark Salley said the company could face fines of $10,000 a day for the violations.

Opponents rally to stop Powertech mine in South Dakota

A group calling itself the "Clean Water Alliance" held a grass roots organizing meeting in Rapid City, SD, in mid-April to try to stop Powertech (TSE:PWE), a Canadian miner, from developing the Dewey-Burdock property near Edgemont. The group told area news media its primary concern is that groundwater will be permanently contaminated with mine chemicals and uranium.

It cited an undocumented figure that three billion gallons of water would be affected by the mine. The most immediate concern the group has is water quality in the Inyan Kara aquifer which reportedly supports 80 wells used for drinking water. The group claims that some of the wells are as close as two miles to the mine.

The group seems to be ignoring the reality that the mine at the leased site wouldn't be developed if uranium wasn't in the porous underground formations in the first place. Mark Hollenbeck, Powertech's project manager, told the Rapid City Journal in April water in the formation is unfit for drinking water because it already has uranium in it. "Mining won't change that fact," he said.

His company has leased about 10,000 acres and has drilled about 100 test holes, but is not mining. The firm is still in the process of getting state and federal regulatory approvals. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission recently submitted 14 RAIs to Powertech on its license application. Hollenbeck told FCW the questions did not contain any surprises, but he complained about the "glacial pace" of regulatory review.

He also denied reports by landowners the firm is seeking new leases. He clarified that Powertech has a leased site near Aladdin, Wyo, which will eventually be used as a recovery facility. Work will begin there after mining operations, and cash flow, occur at the Dewey-Burdock site. "It's a ways down the road," Hollenbeck said.

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1 comment:

Meredith Angwin said...

Cleaning up old mine sites sounds noble, and it is not an area in which I have any particular expertise. However, at the Elizabeth Mine in Vermont, a superfund site, the original attempt at clean-up caused a lot more run-off into the river. The river began flowing orange from the run-off, and people were very unhappy and the cleanup stopped, at least temporarily. To some extent, leaving well enough alone would have been better in the short run.

When you begin disturbing mines and mine tailings, you have to be careful. Things settle in over the years, anything that is going to leach has leached already, and runoff is small. Then someone starts work and orange river. I am sure they could have done better with better planning.