Montrose County to review proposal for uranium mill

The Montrose County Commission will soon begin its review of a proposed uranium mill in the county’s West End.

The proposed Piñon Ridge mill won a unanimous recommendation Wednesday from the county planning commission, culminating a series of meetings that extended late into the night on two occasions before the commission vote.

The county commission is expected to conduct a public hearing in the West End within 30 days of the planning commission vote.

Opponents of the plan were joined Wednesday by actress Darryl Hannah, who maintains a home in nearby San Miguel County, and told a reporter for the Montrose Daily Press that she was “pretty concerned about short-term thinking leading to a disaster.”

Opponents have cited fears that the mill could pose a threat to public health, while supporters have cited the potential for economic growth and higher-wage hiring from the mill and nearby mining.

The Piñon Ridge Mill would sit on 880 acres about 12 miles from Paradox and 7 miles east of Bedrock on land that now is zoned for agriculture.

Energy Fuels is pursuing an aggressive schedule that officials hope will see construction begin in 2011 and the possibility of production in 2012.

Once open, the mill will employ 85 people directly and as many as 250 others in mining, trucking and related jobs, Energy Fuels CEO George Glasier said.

The planning commission’s approval included 16 conditions, ranging from groundwater mitigation and public reporting requirements, as well as requirements that the mill not operate without state approval.

Rezoning agricultural property for the mill will be an issue, said Travis Stills, an attorney with the Energy Minerals Law Center in Durango.

“Energy Fuels bought some property in an agricultural zone and wants to put it to an industrial use,” Stills said. “That’s not how they should go about it.”

Energy Fuels is following the desires of Montrose County in seeking a special-use permit, Glasier said.


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