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Mining company tries to set itself apart Print

by Bill Jackson
Greeley Tribune
June 15, 2008

A company seeking to mine uranium in northeast Weld County stressed it is not to be confused with other companies that have been probing the region.

Geovic Mining Co. representatives, in fact, tout the company's Colorado roots with a long history of uranium mining.

John E. "Jack" Sherborne is the CEO of Geovic Mining Co., headquartered in Grand Junction. While it is not at present mining uranium, Geovic is involved in a huge cobalt operation in the African nation of Cameroon. Five of the top executives with Geovic, however, have 30 years or more experience each in uranium exploration, he said. Geovic has 12 full-time employees in the U.S. and about 20 others in Cameroon.

Earlier this year, Geovic spent $2.8 million in landowner and mineral rights on about 16,000 acres of land in northeast Weld and southeast Wyoming. The company, Sherborne said, did that quietly, as it didn't want to alert competitors of its intentions.

That move came after Canadian-based Powertech Uranium Corp. announced intentions to mine uranium north of Nunn, in northern Weld, which brought on a storm of opposition. It also was the basis for the Colorado General Assembly passing two bills designed to strengthen state oversight of mining, with House Bill 1161 aimed at uranium mining in particular. Industry representatives worked with legislators to make the measure more palatable, but said at the time it was too strict and would hurt the industry.

Sherborne said he was surprised by the reaction of the area to the intentions of Powertech, noting that in-situ mining, according to the U.S. Bureau of Mines, has major advantages compared with conventional uranium mining in the areas of health, safety and the environment.

In-situ mining is a process by which a carbonated water solution is forced into sandstone to activate the uranium. The water is brought to the surface so the uranium can be extracted. The uranium is separated from the carbonated water using a resin.

The possibility of water contamination from the use of in-situ in mining operations was, and is, a major concern for those in northern Weld and Larimer counties.

Sherborne was with Unocal in the 1970s when it conducted exploration of uranium deposits in northeast Weld.

"The bottom fell out of the market back then before any mining was actually conducted, but we know the uranium is there," he said. Mining uranium has become profitable again in the past few years when the price jumped from a low of around $7 a pound to a high of about $140 a pound a year ago. Presently, it's $60 to $65 a pound.

But that doesn't mean, Sherborne said, that any mining operations will begin soon on the land where Geovic has taken mineral leases, with permission from the surface landowners in that region. Geovic, he said, is just getting started on the permitting process, which requires getting permits from the state and county. Once that is complete, exploration will then have to be completed before any mining could start. He had no estimate on how long that might take.

Sherborne said anyone with environmental concerns about Geovic is invited to research its activities in Cameroon, a third-world country that had no environmental regulations in place before Geovic's cobalt mining operations.

"We actually helped develop that country's environmental standards," he said, noting the company commissioned a site-specific environmental study of the area where it is mining. That resulted in an environmental and social impact assessment and an action plan for the area.

In addition, Geovic set up a volunteer medical team that attended to surgical and nonsurgical patients in a Cameroon hospital and got $70,000 in medical supplies sent to the country.

With that as a background, Sherborne said it's his desire to alleviate any environmental concerns with Geovic.

"We're very familiar with what's up there (northeast Weld) and have no intentions of doing anything that would harm that area," he said.

For more: More information on Geovic is available at

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