Moffat County Morning News
Moffat County Morning News

State Land Board set to address uranium mining

Public comment is encouraged

By Will Fletcher
Morning News Staff Writer

Friday, July 08, 2005

Local residents will be given a chance to speak their minds on a proposal to lease 1,680 acres of state land in Moffat County for uranium mining.

On Aug. 26, the Colorado State Board of Land Commissioners will address a lease proposal by the Canadian-based Standard Uranium Inc. on four tracts surrounding the Maybell Uranium District, two of which have already seen such mining activities in the past.

Residents are invited to submit comments to the board at its regularly scheduled meeting in Pueblo, Colo., where the issue of the Moffat County leases will be discussed, said Mark Davis, minerals manager for the State Board of Land Commissioners.

He added that the board must seek input from the gamut of local government and private parties that may be impacted by such an activity. That, he said, can range from environmental concerns to, as Moffat County Commissioners have expressed, concerns about increased traffic on county roads.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m.

And for those not capable of making the long drive, written comments are also being accepted by the State Land Board and will be presented to commissioners before they make their decision.

The state lands are dispersed among federal and private lands in the vast western portion of the county.

Along with grazing, mineral and energy development are encouraged on state owned lands to raise funds for K-12 education in Colorado, Davis said.

“Our job is to try and develop these minerals that were granted to us when Colorado became a state,” Davis said.

In 2004, oil, gas and coal leasing on state lands generated $40 million in Colorado.

However, the leasing of uranium is something relatively rare at this point, Davis said, but is growing as speculation of increased nuclear power generation in the U.S. has caused a near tripling of uranium prices during the past year and a half.

Standard Uranium made claim to a total of 10,400 acres of uranium mining claims in Moffat County this year, which was also matched by 7,000 acres of claims in the Powder River Basin to the north in Wyoming in May.

The lion’s share of the Moffat County leases also fall on federal lands, where mining claims can be staked without review by a board, as is required on state land.

Leasing the land for its uranium also does not mean the mine claims will be developed, Davis said.

Standard Uranium has signaled it is merely a holding company, and that mining would depend heavily on how economic mining of the radioactive element may become in the future.

Moffat County uranium deposits typically fall below other deposits in purity.

“It doesn’t compare in grade to other deposits in North America,” Davis said.

In addition, once the state gives its approval for the lease, any developer would also have to gain permit approval by both the state and the Moffat County Board of Commissioners, processes that would also follow extensive public input.

“The big deal is not us issuing the lease,” Davis said. But Davis added that when the Board of Land Commissioners is briefed on the topic, it is treated as if mining is imminent.

“When I make my presentation to the board, I make it clear that they could develop these deposits,” Davis said.

Questionnaires to eight local government agencies, including the BOCC and county planner, Bureau of Land Management and Division of Wildlife, were sent out regarding the mining claims.

Davis said that no negative comments were received, and that the BOCC commented that it would require a conditional use permit prior to any mining, as well as a transportation plan to address any increased truck traffic along county roads.

Comments to the State Board of Land Commissioners can be made to: attn: Mark Davis, 1313 Sherman St., Room 619, Denver, CO 80203.

Will Fletcher can be reached at will@moffatcountynews.com


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