British mining company sues U.S. government over Grand Canyon uranium mining moratorium

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The Grand Canyon. Courtesy NPS.

Vane Minerals seeks $132 million in damages

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The long-running battle over uranium mining near the Grand Canyon took another twist this week as a British company, VANE Minerals, sued the United States in Washington’s U.S. Court of Claims over the decision to protect 1 million acres of public lands around Grand Canyon National Park from new uranium mining.

VANE’s suit claims that uranium mining in Grand Canyon’s watershed “would have no adverse impacts.” The company is seeking up to $132 million from U.S. taxpayers. This is VANE’s second attempt to bring such a suit against the U.S. Continue reading

Colorado orders cleanup of ‘zombie’ uranium mines

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A state-ordered cleanup of several uranium mining sites in southwestern Colorado will help protect water and air quality.

Deadline set to remove mine waste, revegetate sites

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY —A mining company with a long history on noncompliance with reclamation requirements has been ordered to clean up four semi-abandoned uranium mines in southwest Colorado.

An attempt by Gold Eagle Mining Inc, to delay closure of the mines for another five years was successfully challenged by a watchdog group. The mines, have been idle for three decades, despite a state law that requires uranium mines to be reclaimed and closed a maximum of 10 years after mining ceases.

Three of the mines are located in Slick Rock, directly adjacent to the Dolores River. A fourth mine is located on the slopes above the picturesque Paradox Valley. Multiple documents relating to the mines, including copies of inspection reports and warning letters from the state, are posted here.

None of the mines has an environmental protection plan in place, as required by a 2008 state law. Colorado State Rep. Don Coram, who represents the 58th District in the Colorado House, is president of Gold Eagle Mining Inc., which leases the mines from the Department of Energy and operates them under a permit from the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining & Safety. Continue reading

Grand Canyon uranium mining ban withstands another test

Federal judge once again rejects mining industry challenge to withdrawal

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Speculative uranium plays have raised the prospect of mining in the vicinity of the Grand Canyon. Photo courtesy National Park Service.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A moratorium on uranium mining in the greater Grand Canyon region withstood another test this week, as U.S. District Judge David Campbell denied a uranium industry motion to reconsider his previous ruling to let the temporary ban stand.

Mining interests could still go to a federal appeals court, but for now, the withdrawal enacted last year by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will stand.

“It’s another good day for the Grand Canyon, and for rivers, wildlife, and communities across the West,” said Ted Zukoski of Earthjustice, one the attorneys representing conservation groups and the Havasupai Tribe in the case.  “The court has now twice rejected the uranium industry’s attempt to cripple the Interior Department’s ability to temporarily protect lands from destructive mining.” Continue reading

Colorado: Hearing on controversial uranium mill starts; conservation groups get formal party status

Many southwest Colorado residents are saying no thanks to uranium mining and milling in their region.

Hearing starts Oct. 15 for what would be the country’s first new uranium mill in 30 years

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — After a start-stop permitting procedure for a proposed uranium mill in southwestern Colorado was marred by inadequate public hearings, state officials will once again take input in formal proceedings starting Oct. 15.

This time, a judge has given three conservation groups formal standing for the hearings, which means that environmental advocates will be able to introduce evidence, testify and cross-examine witnesses.

The Piñon Ridge mill is proposed for the Paradox Valley, in southwestern Colorado near the Dolores River. The three groups — Rocky Mountain Wild, Colorado Environmental Coalition and the Center for Biological Diversity — will join the towns of Telluride, Ophir, and San Miguel County in voicing concerns about the proposed mill’s threats to air, water, wildlife and tourism. Continue reading

Colorado: South Park to seek federal aquifer protection

Sole source designation could help guard against mining impacts

A typical in-situ uranium mining test-drilling site during the exploration phase. Photo courtesy Save Our South Park Water.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — South Park residents concerned about impacts of uranium mining and other forms of energy development are seeking federal protection for their water supplies under a sole source aquifer designation from the EPA.

The designation would require more in-depth review of any proposed activities that could affect water supplies. Of special concern is uranium mining near Hartsel, as well as potential development of oil and gas resources. The designation could also result in buffers and other protective measures.

Gaining the EPA designation is a multi-step process beginning Sept. 11 with a meeting of the local environmental advisory board. Citizens will offer a petition requesting the South Park county commissioners to sponsor a formal request for the designation to regional, state and federal authorities. Get an overview of the  regional sole source aquifer program at this EPA website. Continue reading

Colorado: Court upholds rules that protect water from uranium mining and protect right to public involvement

Legal battles over uranium mining in Colorado continue.

Canadian company tries to overturn state rules

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Efforts by a Canadian mining company to bully Colorado came to naught last week, as Denver District Court Judge Christina Habas upheld state regulations that protect water from in situ leach uranium mining impacts.

In its lawsuit against the state, Powertech Uranium Corp. claimed that the Colorado exceeded its legal authority and that adoption of the rules was arbitrary and capricious.

By dismissing the lawsuit, the court also ensured that local communities will have a chance to be involved in the permitting of uranium mines.

“The Colorado uranium mining industry is wrong to keep fighting water quality protections and better public involvement,” said Western Mining Action Project attorney Jeff Parsons, who represented local communities that intervened on the side of the State in defending the rules against the Powertech lawsuit. Continue reading

Environment: Havasupai Tribe and conservation groups win the right to be part of lawsuit over uranium mining near Grand Canyon National Park

The confluence of Havasu Creek with the Colorado River (river mile 157) is a popular place for boaters to stop and admire the striking blue-green water of Havasu Creek. The turquoise color is caused by water with a high mineral content. At the point where the blue creek meets the turbid colorado river there often appears a definite break. NPS photo by Erin Whittaker..

Prospector seeks to overturn ban on new uranium mines

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — The Native American Havasupai tribe, along with four conservation groups, will be party to a lawsuit regarding uranium mining in the vicinity of the Grand Canyon.

U.S. District Court Judge Frederick Martone last week ruled that the Havasupai and four conservation will be able defend the U.S. Department of the Interior’s January 2012 decision to ban new uranium mining claims for 20 years across 1 million acres of public lands adjacent to the Grand Canyon.

The ban was challenged on behalf of the industry by uranium prospector Gregory Yount.

“Friday’s decision means we’ll have a seat in the courtroom to protect the Grand Canyon region’s life-giving waters and deer, elk, condors and other wildlife, as well as the tremendous cultural resources so important to the Havasupai tribe,” said Ted Zukoski, an attorney at Earthjustice who is representing the coalition. Continue reading

Uranium leasing still on hold in SW Colorado

A mine in a uranium-bearing sandstone formation near Moab, Utah. PHOTO VIA WIKIPEDIA AND THE CREATIVE COMMONS.

Federal judge stick to his guns, says feds must study and disclose potential impacts before leasing

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A federal judge in Colorado continues to insist that the Department of Energy must evaluate and disclose site-specific impacts of potential uranium mining operations before resuming a leasing program in the southwestern part of the state.

The leasing program was challenged by five environmental groups; in October 2011, U.S. District Court Judge William Martinez ruled that the U.S. Department of Energy acted “arbitrarily and capriciously” by failing to analyze site-specific impacts when it approved a highly speculative leasing program on 42 square miles of federal land in Mesa, Montrose and San Miguel counties that could potentially threaten water quality.

This week, Martinez largely denied a U.S. Department of Energy request to revisit the injunction. Martinez said he would allow for “absolutely necessary” activities like reclamation but denied the department’s broader request to revisit the injunction. Continue reading

Grand Canyon-area uranium mining ban faces lawsuit

Nuclear, mining industries go to federal court to try and reverse Interior Department’s 20-year moratorium

The Grand Canyon. PHOTO COURTESY NATIONAL PARK SERVICE.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — The mining and nuclear industries are challenging Interior Secretary Ken Salazar 20-year moratorium on uranium mining on more than 1 million acres in the vicinity of the Grand Canyon with a lawsuit filed this week in the U.S. District Court in Arizona.

The lawsuit claims Salazar lacks the statutory authority make a withdrawal larger than 5,000 acres; that the decision was arbitrary under the Administrative Procedures Act, and that the environmental studies failed to comply with federal environmental laws. Continue reading

Republican lawmakers try again — and fail again — to remove Grand Canyon-area uranium development ban

Fourth attempt to overturn environmental protections for cherished area falls short in House committee

Aerial view of the Grand Canyon. PHOTO COURTESY NATIONAL PARK SERVICE.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Federal lawmakers continued their cat and mouse energy game this week by fiddling with a transportation bill to try and repeal President Obama’s ban on new uranium development across 1 million acres of public land surrounding Grand Canyon National Park.

The effort, led by three Arizona congressmen, failed, when the House Rules Committee ruled it out of order. The amendment was sponsored by  Jeff Flake, Trent Franks and Paul Gosar, all Republicans. It would have overturned a recent decision by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar enacting a 20-year “mineral withdrawal” that bans new mining claims and development on existing claims lacking rights-to-mine across Grand Canyon’s million-acre watershed. Continue reading

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