Laws would increase public oversight of mining
Lawmakers: Restore groundwater and make more information available
State lawmakers from Northern Colorado are appropriately seeking to even the playing field for the public when it comes to proposed uranium mines in Colorado.
In legislation that is still being crafted, state Reps. Randy Fischer and John Kefalas, both Democrats, and state Sen. Steve Johnson, a Republican, plan to introduce legislation to protect groundwater and increase public oversight related to uranium mines.
The state legislation, which could come as a single bill or in several pieces, comes on the heels of a Canadian company’s plans to mine uranium in Northern Colorado, primarily using an in-situ mining technique.
At the federal level, U.S. Rep. Marilyn Musgrave has said she will oppose Powertech’s proposal because the company has not been forthcoming on details of its proposal.
A rapid increase in the price of uranium has generated more interest in uranium deposits in Colorado – a state where mineral rights generally supersede surface property rights. Powertech’s announcement has generated criticism from some property owners between Wellington and Nunn, who are concerned about water safety and the ability to use their property during and after mining.
In-situ mining involves pumping treated water into the ground to dissolve and then extract uranium deposits. The ore likely would be transported to Wyoming for processing.
Kefalas and Fischer told the Coloradoan editorial board they seek legislation that ensures that groundwater is restored to its original quality following mining operations and that the public is given more information regarding mining exploration. Currently, Colorado state law allows such information to be kept private during the exploration process.
The lawmakers also hope to include reasonable accommodation language that may require mining companies to pay for loss of use of surface rights. Bill language could include a “bad actor” element in which the history of the mining processes used is taken into consideration before permits are approved.
Powertech officials have said such proposed legislation will not deter them because they have faith in the safety of the in-situ process.
Such protections as proposed by Fischer, Kefalas and Johnson deserve support. These efforts should not be misconstrued as attempts to ban uranium mining in Colorado, but to ensure that mining processes are fair to the public and to the environment for the short and long term.