February 10, 2010



The country's first new uranium mill in 25 years could be operating in Southwest Colorado in early 2012, its chief backer said Tuesday.

But a leading critic of the mill doubts the claim.

Energy Fuels Corp. plans to build the Piñon Ridge mill in the Paradox Valley of Montrose County, about 12 miles west of Naturita.

The company applied to the state health department for a permit to operate last November. By law, the department has until early 2011 to either issue or deny the permit, Energy Fuels President George Glasier said Tuesday at a Colorado Mining Association conference.

“If we didn't think we could get the license, we wouldn't have spent the time and money," Glasier said.

The health department has scheduled a public meeting about the mill for Feb. 17 in Montrose.

Glasier is confident uranium demand will return, although it is now trading in the low $40 range per pound - about $10 less than last summer.

“One of the things the United States needs badly is new uranium mills, because existing mills just cannot handle all the demand there's going to be," Glasier said.

Only mills in Blanding, Utah, and Cañon City have processed uranium recently. The Naturita mill would spur new mining in Colorado and would draw workers from Cortez to Grand Junction, Glasier said.

After state approval in January 2011, the mill could be built in nine months and operating by early 2012, Glasier said.

Others aren't so sure.

“That may be the plan he's promoting," said Travis Stills, a Durango-based lawyer for the mill's opponents. “That doesn't sound very realistic."

In addition to state approval, Energy Fuels needs to secure water rights, an air-quality permit and Environmental Protection Agency blessings for the design of its tailing cells, Stills said. The EPA in particular has a track record of being tough with uranium companies, Stills said.

“That's what a promoter does, is promote a best-case scenario," Stills said.

Glasier also took shots at his environmental opponents.

He had looked at a mill site in San Miguel County but rejected it.

“San Miguel County is where Telluride is, and those people are against mining - any kind of mining," Glasier said.

However, no national environmental groups have joined the fight, he said.

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