From The Telluride Daily Planet (Matthew Beaudin):
Until now, the DOE reviewed the mining operations piecemeal rather than addressing the cumulative impacts of increased production in the region, which it made possible in 2008 with the renewal of its leasing program in the Uravan Mineral Belt, awarding or renewing 31 leases for mining-related activities over 25,000 acres between Naturita and Moab, Utah.
In a pending lawsuit, the conservation groups — including Telluride’s Sheep Mountain Alliance — challenged the Department’s current leasing program for not complying with the National Environmental Policy Act and Endangered Species Act.
The study will examine the effects of the DOE’s uranium-leasing program on 42 square miles of public land near the Dolores and San Miguel rivers. The DOE will host a public meeting in Telluride on Tuesday, Aug. 9 at the Sheridan Opera House from 6:30 to 9 p.m.
“Combined with the activities in the DOE leasing tracts, the impacts of new mining on unpatented claims in the area and the proposed Piñon Ridge Uranium Mill in Paradox Valley all add up to serious new concerns for water quality,” said Hilary White of the Sheep Mountain Alliance. “We have to understand and mitigate existing contamination problems in the area before the government allows new mining to ramp up.”[…]
Gary Steele, Energy Fuels’ vice president, said the move by the DOE would put the brakes on any exploration the company hoped to conduct on any of its seven federal leases but that other endeavors, such as increased production at two existing mines on private claims, would persist.
“We’re kind of disappointed at that, to say the least,” Steele said, but also added that the study was a thoughtful endeavor in the longer run. “As far as the long term, it’s probably a good idea to have this regional development looked at in its entirety.” The mill would not be affected, Steele said…
The DOE will take public comment on its new environmental impact statement until Sept. 9. Comments will also be accepted at public meetings Aug. 8-11 in Telluride, Naturita, Monticello, Utah, and Montrose.