The EPA has issued a permit for the proposed Piñon Ridge Mill tailings cell and evaporation ponds

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From The Telluride Daily Planet (Kathrine Warren):

The permit approves the construction of a 40-acre tailings impoundment and a 30-acre evaporation pond facility, which will manage the tailings and wastewater the future mill produces…

The permit came with a number of conditions, but Energy Fuels’ Director of Communications and Legal Affairs Curtis Moore said the conditions are reasonable. “We have no problem complying with them,” Moore said. “In a lot of respects it shows how closely the EPA first analyzed our project and they took the comments very seriously.”

The approval requires Energy Fuels to submit a comprehensive ground and surface water-monitoring plan, which will be subject to additional review. The water plan will be subject to additional EPA and state reviews and approval. The conditions also ensure that the mill is in compliance with the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP).

“With the EPA approval, the permitting and environmental risk to our project is now behind us,” Energy Fuels CEO and President said Stephen P. Antony in a press release. “This is significant for Energy Fuels and the domestic uranium industry, as it is the first EPA approval of a conventional mill tailing facility since the NESHAP regulations were revised. Achieving this milestone brings Energy Fuels one big step closer to production of American uranium and vanadium.”

Aside from building permits from Montrose County, Energy Fuels now has just one more government permit pending from the Colorado Air Pollution Control Division for non-radioactive air emissions. If approved, this would be the first uranium/vanadium milling facility built in the United States in 25 years.

More coverage from Katharhynn Heidelberg writing for the Montrose Daily Press. From the article:

This is a major step forward for us,” said Curtis Moore, spokesman for Energy Fuels Corp., which hopes to build the Piñon Ridge uranium mill outside of Paradox. “This is one of the major approvals we needed for the Piñon Ridge mill.”

Montrose County two years ago granted Energy Fuels’ special-use permit to site the mill in an area zoned for general agriculture. Earlier this year, the company received its radioactive materials license from the state.

More coverage from Joe Hanel writing for The Durango Herald. From the article:

Thursday’s approval from the EPA gives Energy Fuels permission to build a 30.5-acre tailings cell and up to 40 acres of evaporation ponds. The mill will extract uranium from ore by grinding the rock and mixing it with water. Acid extracts the uranium and vanadium, and the waste rock and water is pumped into a tailings cell. Water that can’t be recycled from the tailings cell is pumped into the evaporation pond, according to the EPA.

More coverage from Nancy Lofholm writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

[Energy Fuels spokesman Curtis Moore] said the recent court ruling that halted the Department of Energy’s uranium leasing program because not enough analysis of potential environmental impacts was done will not have much impact on Energy Fuel’s project. The company has four mines to supply the mill, all on private or state land. The court ruling affects only leases on federal lands. “We only have seven DOE leases, and we had no immediate plans to do anything on those leases,” Moore said. “Our focus has mainly been on private lands.”

Hilary White with the Sheep Mountain Alliance, one of several environmental groups opposing the mill and the comeback of the uranium industry in general, said she thinks Moore is being too optimistic. “I think the court ruling affects all of the uranium industry tremendously,” White said. “It’s another difficulty they (Energy Fuels) will have to deal with as they try to find investors for the mill.”

If the Piñon Ridge mill is built, it will be the first new mill in the country since the Cold War and will be only the second mill operating in the United States. The other is in southeast Utah.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

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