Cotter Corp hopes to sell uranium that is being collected from groundwater sump pumps at the Schwartzwalder Mine


From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

The uranium west of Denver “is not as concentrated as yellowcake” but “is considered source material for licensing purposes,” Cotter vice president John Hamrick said, estimating the value at around $50 a pound. Cotter would like to sell the uranium, Hamrick said. He said the uranium poses little risk. For anybody trying to obtain uranium illegally, “there would be easier low- hanging fruit than us,” he said.

The uranium was collected from tainted groundwater by 10 sump pumps Cotter installed along Ralston Creek, below the mine. The uranium and other captured contaminants are removed before water is pumped into the creek, which flows into a Denver drinking-water-supply reservoir for 1.3 million metro residents.

In an Oct. 11 letter to the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, Cotter officials said 1,440 pounds of uranium had been removed as of Sept. 16 and was stored at the mine. They also disclosed “elevated concentrations of uranium in alluvial groundwater near the Old Emergency Discharge Pond” near the mine.

State mining regulators ordered Cotter to pump out and treat contaminated water in the mine shaft. Cotter challenged the state orders, and Denver District Court Judge Robert Hyatt recently ruled in favor of the state. Cotter officials now contend they can clean Ralston Creek simply by relying on their newly expanded pumping system. “Cotter has utilized intensive monitoring efforts and data evaluations to aggressively develop and implement measures to expand capture/treatment of alluvial groundwater in order to improve water quality in Ralston Creek as soon as possible,” the company’s letter said. The sump system has been effective, “significantly increasing capture and generally reducing levels in the creek.”

The system relies on an ion-exchange process using resin beads that the uranium gloms onto to remove it from water. Cotter switches out the loaded resin beads and uses the tanks the resin arrives in to store extracted uranium.

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