Montrose Planning Commission says yes to special use permit for proposed uranium and vanadium mill

By: Cecile Juliette Email
By: Cecile Juliette Email

The Planning Commission will recommend 'yes' on the special-use permit to Montrose County Commissioners.

But the special-use permit is not without it's restrictions. And it's not without it's controversy. According to a member of the Paradox Valley Sustainability Association who attended Wednesday night's meeting, a group gathered in front of Friendship Hall last night.

People held signs of protest before last night's Planning Commission meeting got underway. There were about 10 people in support of the mill, and in support of the company seeking the permit-Energy Fuels, based in Toronto, Canada.

Energy Fuels has applied for the permit to build the mill in Southwest Colorado. There were up to 40 people in attendance speaking out against granting the permit, including actress Daryl Hannah, who reportedly has a ranch between Placerville and Ridgeway.

Though the Planning Commission voted to approve the special-use permit, there were 16 conditions put in place. One condition states that the company can only process naturally-occurring uranium and vanadium ore.

In other words, the company cannot store other radioactive waste in the tailing cells-only the naturally-occurring uranium and vanadium ore that's been processed on-site.

There were also conditions mandated concerning water.

For example, the company cannot draw down too much water from neighboring springs and wells. But the company is in charge of monitoring it's own water usage. This prompted Hannah to stand up and speak out against a policy that allows the company to police itself.

Energy Fuels wants to build the mill 12 miles west of Naturita and 225 miles southwest of Denver. Frank Filas is Environmental Manager for Energy Fuels. At one point, Filas told members of the planning commission that after one year, the company can get an amendment to the condition that it must only process naturally-occurring ore.

The special-use permit must next pass a vote by Montrose County Commissioners.

They will hold several hearings for public comment.

Also, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment must approve the mill. Energy Fuels says it might take up to ten years to have the mill up and running. Supporters of the mill say it will bring many jobs to the area. Opponents say they worry about harmful pollutants.

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