Mesa County approves uranium mine |

Mesa County approves uranium mine

Marija B. Vader
Grand Junction correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. ” The Mesa County commissioners Tuesday approved a conditional-use permit for an underground uranium mine five miles southwest of Gateway, Colo.

The action reintroduces uranium mining to an area of far western Colorado with a rich uranium mining history dating to the 1940s. Gateway is south of Grand Junction, near the Utah border.

In the 1990s, the price of uranium ore plummeted to between $8 and $10 per pound, prompting the closure of area uranium mines. Now, the price has reached $90 a pound, making it economically feasible to mine, according to Frank Filas, environmental manager for the mine, Energy Fuels Resources.

Energy Fuels Resources would like to mine up to 200 tons of ore per day at its Whirlwind Mine, five miles outside of Gateway.

Initially, the company plans to hire 10 to 12 people and haul up to 100 tons a day of uranium ore, which would be trucked to a mill in Blanding, Utah, Filas said. The ore would not go through the town of Gateway, he said.

The company would like to start mining next year.

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Eventually, Energy Fuels Resources may build its own mill in Colorado ” in western Montrose County ” a project that would cost an estimated $100 million and require at least a decade of jumping through regulatory hoops, Filas said.

The radioactive, milled ore is targeted for use at nuclear power plants and could be sold as far away as India and China, “but more than likely, domestic,” he said.

The Bureau of Land Management is now preparing an environmental assessment on the project, said David Lehmann, natural resource specialist with the Grand Junction BLM office. Based on the results of the assessment, an environmental impact statement may be required, he said.

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