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Mining right-to-know bill dies in committee Print

By Staff
Northern Colorado Business Report
April 3, 2008

DENVER -- A bill designed to let the public know about possible mining activities near them was killed April 2 in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.

The bill, HB 1165, was sponsored by Fort Collins Democratic Reps. John Kefalas and Randy Fischer. Kefalas and Fischer drafted the bill in response to a plan by Powertech Uranium Corp. to mine uranium in western Weld County, and to give state residents more awareness of other possible uranium prospecting in Colorado.

The bill died on a 7-to-6 vote largely along party lines after members of the committee could not agree on a version that would protect both the public and mining industry interests. Matt Garrington, field director of Environment Colorado, criticized those who helped kill the bill.

"Today our Legislature failed to lift the veil of secrecy that surrounds mining," Garrington said in a statement. "We are disappointed in those representatives who sided with the mining industry over Coloradans and our environment."

Garrington said Colorado is the only western state that keeps all prospecting information confidential even when local landowners and the environment could be directly impacted.

"Mining exploration activities can come at a huge expense to local landowners, water quality and our unspoiled mountains and prairie landscapes," he said. "Mining companies have a responsibility to inform the public of activities that could directly impact local communities and the environment."

Stuart Sanderson, president of the Colorado Mining Association, praised the committee's action to indefinitely postpone the measure. Sanderson said the bill would have "allowed local governments to override uniform state standards for the protection of the environment and set their own reclamation standards for mining operations."

"The mining industry has consistently supported strong state regulatory programs for both the Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety and the Colorado Department of Health and Environment," he said in a statement. "We believe that decisions on matters of statewide interest such as development of minerals should remain in the hands of technical experts with solid expertise and funding, rather than scattered throughout the various levels of local government."

HB 1165 had been introduced as a companion bill to HB 1161, also carried by Kefalas and Fischer along with other area legislators including Sen. Steve Johnson, R-Fort Collins. That bill, which places groundwater quality restrictions on uranium mining, passed a House vote on March 31 and is now moving to the Senate for debate next week.

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