August 2, 2007
By Marissa Brunner
Montrose Daily Press Writer
MONTROSE, COLORADO — Two small towns on the West End of the county are hoping to see a boom in their economy after a Toronto-based company has announced its plan to build a uranium mill in Paradox Valley.
Energy Fuels Inc. has recently announced its plan to bring uranium mining back to Nucla and Naturita. The company has acquired 1,000 acres of property west of Naturita.
George Glasier, president and CEO of Energy Fuels Inc., said the company decided to purchase the land in the Paradox Valley after assessing seven sites throughout western Colorado and eastern Utah. The small population and open area surrounding Nucla and Naturita was the determining factor in the selection of the area, he said.
Local officials support the construction of the plant, which will be called the Pinon Ridge Uranium Mill. With the increase in employment the mill will likely produce, Naturita Mayor Cameron Riley and Nucla Mayor Roxy Allex anticipate a positive effect on the communities.
“I think it’s a great deal,” Riley said. “It’s a way to boost the economy—get things going like they used to be in the boom days.”
In the past, Nucla and Naturita thrived on the uranium and vanadium mining industry, until the mines were shut down in the early 1980s because of low uranium prices.
“This is not only going to affect the West End,” Allex said. “Back in the days of the mines running, what happened over here pretty much built Montrose. Nucla supported the county.”
Since the close of the mines in the early 80s, Nucla and Naturita have struggled economically, lacking industry and economic growth.
“It has been a fight to survive for those of us who want to stay here,” Allex said. “There’s no industry, and without mining, most struggle.”
Many residents of Nucla and Naturita make the drive to Telluride everyday because of the lack of employment in the area, Allex said.
Both Allex and Riley confirmed that they have not seen or heard of any opposition towards the proposed project.
Allex also noted that surrounding towns and cities should not be concerned with the proposal either. With the mill being located so close to the mining sites, uranium will not have to be transported through metropolitan areas.
Glasier said the new mill will be equipped with state-of-the-art technology, ensuring the maximum amount of security and safety for workers.
The facility will contain disposal units that will keep groundwater and dirt from becoming contaminated with uranium tailings. The disposal site will consist of double synthetic liners, a pump-back machine and a clay layer top to eliminate emissions of radon.
“We have very stringent environmental standards,” Glasier said.
Presently, Energy Fuels Inc. is employing 35 people, some who are mining and others who are helping with the permitting process. By next year, Glasier said he hopes to have doubled his number of employees. When the mill is up and running, Glasier suspects that at least 250 people will be employed.
In a year, the company hopes to have submitted their application for a license from the Department of Health, Glasier said. Once that is obtained, public meetings, data review and analyzation of the project design will follow.
Glasier said the company hopes to have the mill in its operational state by 2010.
Initial engineering studies have indicated that the mill will be constructed to produce between 1.6 million and 2 million pounds of yellowcake per year. Yellowcake is uranium in its processed form.
Allex acknowledged that mining and processing uranium can be a dangerous occupation, but people in the area are educated on the job, most having grown up on the West End of the county. If there’s a chance to raise their standard of living, people are going to jump on that opportunity, she said.
“People need to make a living, and the bottom line is you can’t be picky about what you do when your family’s food on the table is the big issue,” Allex said.
Contact Marissa Brunner via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org