Judge gives uranium mill the go-ahead

The planned Piñon Ridge uranium mill can go forward under Montrose County’s special-use permit, a judge ruled Friday.

Seventh Judicial District Judge James Schum ruled the Montrose County Commission acted within its discretion last year when it approved the permit for the mill to be built by Energy Fuels Resources Inc.

“It’s nice to have the decision go our way,” Energy Fuels Resources President Steve Antony said. “The opposition has valid concerns” that the company addressed, “and if there are any new concerns, we’ll continue to address them.”

The Telluride-based Sheep Mountain Alliance challenged the permit and said in a statement the organization was disappointed in the ruling.

“Sheep Mountain Alliance continues to oppose the Piñon Ridge Uranium Mill in Paradox Valley,” Beverly Winterscheid, president of the alliance board of directors, said in a statement. “As the remaining permits are issued by federal and state regulatory agencies, we will continue to press for public involvement in the review process.”

The alliance will review the ruling during the coming weeks, Winterscheid said.

Energy Fuels Resources is near the midpoint of its review period for the permit issued by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

It has until March to accept the conditions in the state permit or appeal any or all of them, Antony said.

Only after the company’s review period passes does a 30-day appeal period for opponents begin, Antony said.

Energy Fuels Resources, a publicly held company listed on the Toronto stock exchange, plans to spend as much as $150 million to construct the mill on an 880-acre site in the West End of the county.

The mill is designed to process 500 tons of ore per day at the beginning, but can be expanded to produce 1,000 tons per day for as long as 30 years.

In his ruling, Schum found the commission complied with Colorado open-meetings laws in making its determination after a series of public hearings. Schum also found the county had the latitude to approve the permit for the mill in an area zoned for general agriculture.

The county was within its discretion to conclude that the mill would fit within the category of “new mineral resource development or extraction” as an approved use in an agricultural zone, the ruling said.

The Sheep Mountain Alliance identified several hypothetical problems the commission didn’t address, Schum noted.

“It is not reasonable to expect (the commission) to address every hypothetical problem that might arise from the mill’s operations unless there is specific evidence in the record that such problems would likely occur,” Schum wrote.

The alliance’s objections are at best “purely speculative to the extent that they are not supported by anything in the record,” the judge wrote.


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