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Residents grill mine company Print
Format at Nunn open house frustrates many


NUNN - Large fans set up around a former high school gymnasium that's now part of this small town's community center were not enough to keep the heat off officials from Powertech (USA) Inc. on Thursday.

Area residents and anti-nuclear activists from across Northern Colorado grilled company officials during an open house intended to answer questions about the company's plan to mine uranium from beneath the prairie between Nunn and Wellington.

About 300 people cycled through the open house, with many saying they felt frustrated by the format and the information company officials offered.

"This feels like a dog-and-pony show to me," said Larry Williams, who lives near Nunn. "You ask a question and they tell you to talk to someone else. Then you get an answer but you don't get a lot of specifics."

Some information presented by company officials and their consultants was contradictory, said Christy Staab, who operates an equine rescue center off Weld County Road 102.

"It's more listening to what they don't say," Staab said. "If they want this community to be open and receptive to them and to their plan, they need to be open and honest and not give empty promises and sidestep the issues and give ambiguous answers."

Powertech is considering mining uranium from 5,760 acres east of Wellington for which it owns the mineral rights.

The company intends to use a process known as in-situ recovery that uses treated water pumped under high pressure to extract uranium ore from underground deposits in the area.

Critics say the in-situ process could contaminate groundwater and potentially a vast underground aquifer.

Company officials say the process is safe and will be carefully monitored. State and county agencies would closely regulate the mining process.

Powertech has begun test drilling to establish baseline environmental conditions and learn more about conditions underground, said Richard Blubaugh, the company’s vice president of environmental health and safety resources.

The company is more than a year from applying for permits from state and county regulatory agencies, he said.

The company doesn’t know the answers to questions some residents are asking because it doesn’t have enough information, he said.

“You’ve got to have the data collection before you can do the analysis, and you’ve got to have the analysis before you can make the decisions,” he said.

John Nelson, who lives off Weld County Road 17, said he’s not concerned about the proposed project. Monitoring wells will alert the company to contamination if it occurs, he said.

Nelson, who said he works in the nuclear industry but not for Powertech, said the in-situ process is safe.

“You get more exposure to radioactive materials from coal-fired power plants than from any of this mining or a nuclear power plant,” he said.



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