Twenty years after uranium mining ceased in New Mexico amid plummeting prices for the ore, global warming and the soaring cost of oil are renewing interest in nuclear power — and in the state’s uranium belt.
At least five companies are seeking state permits to mine the uranium reserves, estimated at 500 million pounds or more, and Uranium Resources Inc. (URI), a Texas-based company, wants to reopen a uranium mill in Ambrosia Lake.
Industry officials say a uranium boom could mean thousands of jobs and billions in mineral royalties and taxes for the state.
But the deposits are largely in and around Navajo land, and the industry’s poor record on health and safety as it extracted tons of the ore in past decades has soured many Navajos on uranium mining. In 2005, the Navajo Nation banned uranium mining and milling on its land, and thousands of tribe members are receiving or seeking federal compensation for the health effects of past uranium exposure.
Federal judge blocks uranium company’s test near Grand Canyon
PHOENIX: A federal judge has blocked a British mining company from exploring for uranium near the Grand Canyon, agreeing with environmental groups which sued the U.S. Forest Service for approving the plan without full environmental reviews.
The Sierra Club, Grand Canyon Trust and Center for Biological Diversity sued the Forest Service last month for allowing VANE Minerals Group to drill at up to 39 locations on seven sites on the Kaibab National Forest.
The company is seeking commercial quantities of uranium, which has soared in price in recent years and resulted in a wave of new development.
U.S. District Judge Mary Murguia in Phoenix issued a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction stopping the drilling late Friday after a hearing, said Sandy Bahr, conservation outreach director for the Sierra Club’s Arizona chapter.
The Forest Service approved the drilling in December, using a so-called categorical exclusion, a decision which required only minimal environmental review.
Murguia rejected that analysis, Bahr said.
“She basically told the Forest Service that uranium mining and exploration near the Grand Canyon, two miles (3.2 kilometers) from the park, is not routine, not non-controversial and they misused the categorical exclusion,” Bahr told The Associated Press Saturday.
Talk runs hot ‘n’ coal
WESTMINSTER — Amid growing criticism about its heavy reliance on coal-fired power, the state’s second-largest utility is considering the prospect of building a nuclear power plant in southeastern Colorado.
Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association’s board of directors voted recently to have its staff study nuclear as a possibility for the site in Prowers County near Holly.