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Numerous articles, editorials, and letters to the editor are being published in local newspapers concerning uranium mining in northern Colorado. To view them, see the Reference page.
Clean water + wind energy = uranium mining? Print

by Linda J. Turner

Guest Commentary
Greeley Tribune
August 31, 2007

Weld County is Colorado's renewable energy forerunner: Ponnequin Wind Farm on the Wyoming border; Cedar Creek Wind Project near Grover; and now Vestas' turbine blade manufacturing facility with 490 new jobs coming to Windsor. However, the designation of renewable energy leader will be marred if Weld becomes the gateway to uranium mining in northeast Colorado.

Powertech Uranium Corporation has obtained 6,880 acres of mineral rights in Weld County and proposes to mine uranium using in-situ leaching and open pit. The proposed uranium operation is less than 16 miles from Greeley and Fort Collins. While the dangers of surface mining uranium in Weld is obvious (the same wind that turns wind turbines will also disperse radioactive mine tailings) the dangers of in-situ leaching are hidden.

Powertech promotes in-situ leaching as a benign way to mine uranium. The facts show otherwise: spills, leaks, mechanical failures and transportation accidents plague in-situ leaching uranium mining. The in-situ leaching process uses large amounts of water, treated with caustic chemicals, to separate uranium from sandstone. This treated water, injected into the aquifer, will dissolve uranium along with many other heavy metals. The resulting water solution is pumped back to the surface where uranium is siphoned off for further processing. The remaining hazardous metals soup is pooled in a holding pond and either dried and hauled to a hazardous waste dump or treated and injected underground. In-situ leaching will leave heavy metal concentrations in the aquifer higher than pre-mining concentrations. In fact, uranium mining companies typically request lowered contracted groundwater restoration standards in order to achieve successful restoration of the site's mined aquifer.

Powertech's proposed uranium in-situ leaching would take place within the Laramie-Fox Hills aquifer. The aquifer -- used extensively by commercial, municipal, agricultural and private wells -- covers approximately 7,000 square miles along the Front Range from Greeley to Colorado Springs and east to Limon. Uranium in-situ leaching will pollute our state's most precious resource: water.

Low-grade uranium deposits exist throughout Colorado. Left undisturbed, this uranium poses little or no threat to our health. Until China and India's nuclear power plant initiatives drove the price for uranium to their current record highs, it was not cost efficient to mine this low-grade uranium. With rising uranium prices, mining companies are rushing to make claims on northern Colorado's uranium with the same intent: to mine uranium quickly and take advantage of the high uranium prices.

Colorado's 2007 legislative session ended with the claim Colorado will become an economic hub for renewable energy. With the passage of Amendment 37, Colorado's largest utilities will be required to generate at least 10 percent of their electricity through renewable sources by 2015. Weld County has shown Colorado can build an economy around renewable energy.

Northern Colorado's uranium should not be disturbed. Uranium is not renewable, it is not safe, it is not clean, it is not cheap, and it is not needed. A quick profit for Powertech and its shareholders will have negative long-term impacts for Weld County and northern Colorado. If current laws and public sentiment allow Powertech to move forward with uranium mining, Weld landowners are concerned their water wells will become contaminated. All of us who live in northern Colorado should be concerned. Encourage Weld to remain a leader in clean renewable energy, not the gateway to Colorado's uranium rush.

For more information on the hazards of uranium mining, go to

Linda Turner of Fort Collins grew up and raised two children in northern Colorado, where she continues to live with her husband and four horses.

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