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Victory in Colorado for water and public accountability on mining

Colorado mining board votes unanimously to protect health, environment from uranium and hardrock mining impacts
For Immediate Release

Denver – Today, the Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Board voted unanimously, 7 to 0, in favor of clean water protections and an open public process regarding mine prospecting decisions.

Jeff Parsons, attorney with the Western Mining Action Project, represented Coloradoans Against Resource Destruction (CARD), Environment Colorado, and others during the rulemaking process before the state mining board.

“We’re pleased with the Board’s decision today in passing rules that protect groundwater and ensure public involvement in uranium mining decisions,” said Parsons. 

The decision caps events that started more than two years ago when Environment Colorado and CARD teamed up with support from Parsons to pass some of the nation’s toughest uranium laws as well as mine prospecting legislation. Today’s decision by the board was the final enactment of new protections into Colorado law.

Garrington lauded the closure of the Cotter uranium loophole, an obscure provision in state law where Cotter attempted to avoid environmental regulation at multiple sites, including the Schwartzwalder uranium mine in Jefferson County which was polluting Ralston Reservoir, a drinking water supply for Denver Water and the City of Arvada

“The state mining board took decisive action to protect our water and land from uranium pollution,” said Matt Garrington, program advocate of Environment Colorado. “Today is a triumph for our land and water.”

Canada-based Powertech fought clean water protections as it tries to move forward with a highly controversial Centennial project in Weld County, in the vicinity of more than one hundred active groundwater wells.

“Despite Powertech’s best efforts to cut-out the public and avoid environmental protections, clean water won the day,” said Jackie Adolph, outreach chair of CARD. 

Fremont County-based Tallahassee Area Community had fought to strengthen groundwater protections during the rulemaking in light of a proposed uranium mine by Black Range Minerals in an area riddled with abandoned uranium mines that are already polluting groundwater wells.

“The board has taken steps to protect our water from uranium contamination during prospecting,” said Kay Hawklee of the Tallahassee Area Community. “It’s extremely important to protect water quality when you live out in the country and cannot be hooked up to city water if your well water is ruined. 

Specifically, the new mining rules include:

  • Ground water protections: requires uranium companies to restore groundwater quality to its pre-mining condition or better through a plan approved by the Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety prior to the start of the mine.
  • Closes the Cotter uranium loophole: requires all uranium operations to be considered a “Designated Mining Operation” and subject to the same environmental laws as other mining projects. 
  • Public appeal of mine prospecting decisions: provides, for the first-time ever, an appeal process of mine prospecting decisions by the public and local government.
  • Baseline water quality testing: requires baseline water quality testing in all in-situ uranium projects during the prospecting phase and also affirms the mining division’s ability to determine whether baseline water testing is needed at all hardrock mining projects.
  • Lined waste pit consideration: affirms the mining division’s ability to determine whether lined waste pits are needed for all hardrock mining operations. 
  • Creates sunshine on mine prospecting information: puts Colorado in-line with neighboring states by requiring that mining companies disclose the when, where, and how mining operations will occur to ensure the public is fully informed about potential impacts. Also requires mining companies to notify local government about mine prospecting operations. Truly proprietary information such as size of the ore body would remain confidential.