Colorado tightens uranium mining laws

23 May 2008

A new Land and Water Stewardship Act of 2008 has been passed in Colorado to tighten up control of in-situ leach (ISL) mining in the state.

It is particularly addressing concerns about the proposed Centennial ISL mine in the north of the state, near the Wyoming border. This is proposed by Powertech Uranium Corp, in a non-potable aquifer.

Colorado has historically been a major uranium mining state for hardrock deposits and is again emerging as such. The Centennial mine would be the state's first ISL operation, though in Wyoming there are a number of ISL mines operating and proposed. There are well-established procedures for operating these and rehabilitation of aquifers afterwards so as to avoid polluting water supplies.

Although the new Act focuses on ISL mining, it also tightens environmental management requirements for all uranium mines.

Powertech president and CEO Richard Clement stated that the new law "identifies in-situ mining as an approved method of mine development in Colorado. The standards that have been set by the legislation are very stringent but similar to those promulgated by Federal and State agencies within the other uranium mining states. In effect, the new regulations will require close measurement of baseline character prior to operations and the use of best available technology to return the water associated with the mining operations to the baseline conditions." He added, "These operational conditions can be met by the mining companies and will allow continuity of development in Colorado."

The Colorado Mining Association (CMA) called for care in drafting regulations under the Act so as to avoid unrealistic expectations on the mining industry. In a statement, the CMA said it "urges the regulatory agencies within the state of Colorado to carefully implement its provisions to accomplish the dual goals of protecting the environment and promoting the development of minerals essential to meeting our nation and state's growing energy requirements."

Stuart Sanderson, president of the CMA, said: "Providing a secure domestic supply of uranium is essential to meeting our nation's needs for clean energy." He added, "If we place unrealistic requirements on the uranium industry that is re-emerging in Colorado and the United States, we will find ourselves as dangerously reliant on foreign sources of uranium as we are dependent on foreign oil."

The Centennial deposit has 3750 tonnes of uranium a as NI 43-101 compliant inferred resources, which would be alkaline leached.