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org Jeff Parsons, Western Mining Action Project, (303) 823-5738, email@example.com
Colorado Mining Agency Orders Clean-Up of Four West Slope Uranium Mines
Gold Eagle Mining must submit new reclamation plan for mines, clean up sites by May 2014
Norwood, Colo. –– Four uranium mines on the Western Slope have been ordered into final
reclamation, following a successful appeal by INFORM of the operator’s attempt to delay the mines’ closure by an additional five years. The mines, owned by Gold Eagle Mining Inc., have been idle for three decades, despite a state law that requires uranium mines to be reclaimed and closed a maximum of 10 years after mining ceases. Three of the mines are located in Slick Rock, directly adjacent to the Dolores River. A fourth mine is located on the slopes above the picturesque Paradox Valley. None of the mines has an environmental protection plan in place, as required by a 2008 state law. Colorado State Rep. Don Coram, who represents the 58th District in the Colorado House, is president of Gold Eagle Mining Inc., which leases the mines from the Department of Energy and operates them under a permit from the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining & Safety (DRMS). On April 16, the Information Network for Responsible Mining (INFORM) filed protests with the state over Gold Eagle Mining’s request for a new, five-year period of standby status known under Colorado law as “temporary cessation.” In the protests, INFORM outlined the history of noncompliance of Gold Eagle Mining with the requirements of state law and its mining permits, including the lack of stormwater controls to prevent radioactive contaminants from leaving the mine sites. In the face of INFORM’s appeal, Gold Eagle Mining withdrew its request, resulting in the state’s reclamation order. The state order requires the company to submit final reclamation plans and clean up the mines before May 31, 2014. The plans must address how unreclaimed waste piles and ore storage areas will be handled, how polluting drainage will be controlled on site, how adits and shafts will be closed, and revegetation standards, among other requirements. INFORM has pressed the state to address the permit status of numerous uranium mines on the Western Slope, which have been allowed to keep their permits and delay cleanup activities, often for decades. “These mines shut their doors long ago, after the uranium crash of 1980, and have posed substantial risks to the environment since,” said Jennifer Thurston, director of INFORM. “The mines at Slick Rock lack even the most basic safeguards to prevent the movement of radioactive and toxic waste materials off-site and into the river. By taking measures to ensure that the
responsible company cleans them up and operates as required by law, the state has taken an action that will directly improve the health of the Dolores River and reduce the impacts that these neglected uranium mines represent.” “Colorado law requires any mines that lay idle for more than 10 years to fully comply with reclamation requirements,” said Jeff Parsons, an attorney with Western Mining Action Project in Lyons, Colo., which represented INFORM in the matter. “We’re pleased to see the Division enforce the law in response to INFORM’s protest. In the case of Gold Eagle Mining, the state appeared poised to allow this company another five years to avoid final reclamation, so we are pleased that they are now ordering these mines to be cleaned up.” The order to Gold Eagle Mining stems from the state’s implementation of HB 08-1161, a state law passed in 2008 that required, for the first time, all uranium mines to submit environmental protection plans and meet current standards for operating, including reclamation. Gold Eagle Mining failed to submit completed environmental protection plans as required on Oct. 1, 2012, despite numerous requests from the state to do so. When Gold Eagle did eventually submit new plans, they were deemed to be inadequate. Gold Eagle Mining then requested another five-year period of temporary cessation, which would have allowed the mines to remain unaddressed. “The problem of long-idled and unreclaimed uranium mines is a very serious one on the Western Slope,” Thurston said. “For years, regulators have recognized the noncompliance with the law at many of these sites and yet have not ordered full reclamation. These ‘zombie mines’ pose significant risks to the environment and have very little chance of ever producing ore again. Reclaiming these mines not only protects the environment, but provides immediate jobs and improves the land’s ability to support the recreation and conservation-based economy that we depend on.” The three mines at Slick Rock are the Burros, the Ellison and the Hawkeye, located next to the Dolores River in western San Miguel County, and are frequently viewed by boaters and other recreationists. The JD-5 Mine is located on Monogram Mesa in western Montrose County. All of Gold Eagle Mining’s permitted mine sites are on public lands owned by the BLM and leased through the Department of Energy’s uranium leasing program. INFORM is a co-plaintiff in the lawsuit that required the DOE to conduct a much-needed comprehensive impacts study of uranium mining on the Western Slope –– including these mines –– that was released in March. Additional Background Information: • The Burros, Ellison, Hawkeye and JD-5 mines were permitted in 1977, when the state first required uranium mines to obtain state permits and submit mining plans. • The JD-5 Mine stopped operating in 1980. • The Burros Mine operated between 1975 and 1981, before shutting down.
• The Hawkeye Mine has not operated at all or produced ore under its current permit. • The Ellison Mine developed infrastructure at the mine before 1982, but has never produced ore. • All four mines received two consecutive periods of “temporary cessation” between 1980 and 1990, for a total of 10 years of inactivity, the maximum allowed under state law. • Around 1990, the state began allowing these and other mines to receive “intermittent” status in order to retain their permits. This status was essentially a 20-year loophole that allowed the mines to remain open without meeting their legal reclamation requirements. • Gold Eagle Mining acquired the four mines and the DOE leases between 1997 and 1999. • In 2008, the Colorado Legislature passed HB 08-1161, requiring all uranium mines in the state to meet modern permitting standards and to implement environmental protection plans. Part of the law’s impetus was the legislative need to address the noncompliance of long-idled uranium mines in Colorado. • In January of 2012, the state notified Gold Eagle Mining that the final deadline to submit an environmental protection plan would be Oct. 1, 2012. • On Oct. 1, 2012, Gold Eagle Mining submitted an incomplete and non-substantive plan, which the state quickly deemed inadequate for review. An additional 60 days was granted to allow Gold Eagle Mining to finish the process, which it did not. • On Dec. 21, 2012, INFORM requested that the Division of Reclamation, Mining & Safety take enforcement action against Gold Eagle Mining Inc. for failing to comply with the law. • In January, Gold Eagle Mining missed a deadline to notify the state that it would enter final reclamation at the mines. On Feb. 22, 2013, the state warned Gold Eagle to submit a notice of temporary cessation before March 8, which it did. • On April 16, INFORM filed a protest against Gold Eagle Mining’s notices of temporary cessation and demanded that the mines be reclaimed. • On May 6, Gold Eagle Mining withdrew its notices, thereby avoiding a hearing in front of the state mining board. • On May 10, the state directed Gold Eagle Mining to submit final reclamation plans for the mines before mid-June and to complete all reclamation work prior to May 31, 2014. ***
INFORM is a statewide mining watchdog group that monitors hardrock mining activities in Colorado, and is based in Norwood. For copies of the permit documents, inspection reports or photographs of the mines, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Many of the related documents can be accessed at: http:// www.scribd.com/collections/4260515/Gold-Eagle-Mining-Inc
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