Discussion to focus on legacy of uranium mining
Mar 06, 2014 | 738 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Energy Queen Mine, located on private land in La Sal, is one of several uranium mines in southeast Utah. Although mining activity is not currently taking place at the Energy Queen, the mine's owner, Energy Fuels Inc., still holds several active permits and also monitors and maintains the mine, according to company officials.
The Energy Queen Mine, located on private land in La Sal, is one of several uranium mines in southeast Utah. Although mining activity is not currently taking place at the Energy Queen, the mine's owner, Energy Fuels Inc., still holds several active permits and also monitors and maintains the mine, according to company officials.
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As the one-time “Uranium Capital of the World,” Moab has a long history connected to uranium mining and processing. And while the rich veins of uranium discovered in the 1950s by Charlie Steen and others led to a boom industry in southeast Utah, it also left behind a legacy of abandoned mines and processing mills that continue to pose potential hazards to communities today.

That legacy will be the focus of a discussion on Friday, March 7 at 7 p.m. at the Moab Arts and Recreation Center, 111 East 100 North. A $10 donation is requested at the door.

Sarah Fields, founder of the Moab-based group Uranium Watch, will give a presentation focused on the current impacts of uranium mining in areas across southeast Utah, including a discussion of present-day and historic mining operations. The presentation and discussion will also cover abandoned uranium mines in the region and the Department of Energy’s efforts to identify, reclaim and remediate those sites, Fields told The Times-Independent.

Congress directed the DOE, in consultation with the Department of the Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency, to review and prepare a report on abandoned uranium mines in the U.S. that provided uranium ore for atomic energy defense activities. Recently, the DOE issued preliminary “topic” reports in connection with that study. Those reports, which include a location and status report, a cost and feasibility report, a risk report and a prioritization report, will provide the foundation for the final report to Congress, according to information on the DOE website. The final document is expected to be issued in July.

Out of a total of 4,225 abandoned uranium mines identified in the U.S., 1,380 are located in Utah. The majority of the Utah sites are located in Grand and San Juan counties, with others in Emery and Garfield counties, Fields noted.

“Utah produced about 10 million tons of ore for the weapons program, mainly from small mines,” Fields said. “A big issue is getting adequate federal funding [for reclamation and remediation].”

She noted that there is a disparity between the types of uranium-related sites that the DOE has so-far worked to reclaim.

“The federal government took responsibility for the cleanup of uranium mills associated with the weapons program, but has failed to take responsibility for the reclamation of uranium mines that provided the ore for the weapons program,” Fields said.

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