Decommissioning Projects - Colorado, USA
(last updated 28 May 2022)
> See also:
Site Index (includes UMTRA Title I and In-situ leach projects)
Burrell (CO) ·
Cañon City ·
Grand Junction ·
Maybell West ·
Slick Rock ·
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Legislation & Regulations
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Deposits, Proposed and Active Mines ·
Old Mines and Decommissioning
Ore from last uranium boom still scattered on Colorado land
5,000 tons of uranium ore remain on the surface from Colorado's last boom, according to a Department of Energy environmental study.
(Durango Herald Aug. 11, 2009)
BP subsidiary to pay $2.5 million for cleanup of abandoned Butterfly and Burrell uranium mine sites
The U.S. on Tuesday (July 31) asked a federal judge to approve a consent decree under which BP America Inc. subsidiary Enstar LLC will pay $2.5 million for the remediation of former uranium mines located in a Colorado national forest.In June the U.S. filed a complaint against Enstar alleging violations of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act at the Butterfly and Burrell Mine sites. (Law360, July 31, 2012)
Forest Service issues Draft Engineering Evaluation/Cost Analysis for reclamation of abandoned Butterfly and Burrell uranium mine sites
The Forest Service is seeking public comments on proposed reclamation of the Butterfly and Burrell mine sites located on the Blanco Ranger District northeast of Meeker, Colorado. The Butterfly and Burrell Mine Sites are former uranium mines located near Uranium Peak in Rio Blanco County. In 2005, the White River National Forest conducted a site assessment and confirmed the presence and release of hazardous materials from the site. Hazardous materials identified in soil analysis include elevated levels of arsenic and uranium. Surface water sampling below the mine site confirmed elevated levels of uranium due to soil erosion. The Forest Service has determined these hazardous materials pose an unsafe human health risk to the general public and to the environment and are taking steps towards final reclamation of this site.
The Forest Service will accept written comments for 30 calendar days from the date of this notice. (U.S. Forest Service March 9, 2011)
> Download Butterfly and Burrell Mines Reclamation Documents (White River National Forest)
Burro, San Miguel County
Reclamation of Burro Mines Complex to begin this year:
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Legacy Management (LM) is currently working towards protecting the Dolores River by addressing sedimentation issues stemming from the historic Burro Mines Complex in San Miguel County, Colorado.
The Burro Mines Complex includes three separate and distinct uranium mine sites: the Burro Tunnel Mine, the Burro No. 3 Mine, and the Burro No. 5 Mine. The Burro Tunnel Mine site is located along the east side of County Road S8, which is adjacent to the Dolores River.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety (DRMS) consider the sites as legacy, or "pre-law," mines, because they operated prior to the present era of permitting by the Colorado DRMS. As such, there are no requirements for reclamation, and the mines could remain in their current condition. Nevertheless, to protect the Dolores River from further sediment, LM intends to begin work on a reclamation at the mine complex later this year.
(DOE Legacy Management Apr. 1, 2021)
The reclamation work was completed in October.
(DOE Legacy Management Dec. 21, 2021)
DOE invites comment on Draft Environmental Assessment for reclamation of Burro Mines:
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Legacy Management (LM) is proposing mine-reclamation activities at the Burro Mines Complex located in the Slick Rock area of southwestern San Miguel County, Colorado, on DOE Uranium Lease Tract SR-13. LM has issued a draft Environmental Assessment (EA) in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act for the proposed reclamation activities.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Tres Rios Field Office and the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining, and Safety are cooperating agencies for this EA. BLM will issue a separate decision on whether to authorize the use of BLM lands adjacent to DOE Uranium Lease Tract SR-13 for temporary site access, staging, and hauling of waste rock.
Submit comments by September 8, 2020.
> View: related DOE LM page
> Download: Draft Environmental Assessment for Reclamation of the Burro Mines Complex in San Miguel County, Colorado , DOE/EA-2121, Aug. 2020 (8.5MB PDF)
> View here
> for the Maybell UMTRA Title I uranium mill tailings site, see here
> for the Maybell West Title II uranium mill tailings site, see here
Proposal for uranium mill tailings deposit in former Maybell uranium mine
The U.S. Department of Energy has filed an application
requesting the Secretary of the Interior to withdraw from surface entry
and mining and transfer jurisdiction of 160 acres of public land in
Moffat County, Colorado, to be utilized as a uranium mill tailings
disposal site. This notice segregates the land for a period of 2 years
from surface entry and mining.
Comments and requests for a public meeting must be received January 26, 2006.
Federal Register: October 28, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 208) p. 62138 (download full text )
On Aug. 17, 2005, members of grassroots organization Moffat County Cares submitted a letter to the Colorado State Board of Land Commissioners opposing Standard Uranium's request to lease 1,100 acres north of Juniper Springs. The company's goal is to mine uranium on that lease in conjunction with 15 square miles it already holds the rights to.
(Craig Daily Press, Aug. 18, 2005)
Northwest Colorado Cares is a group of residents that formed after they heard that a Northwest Colorado landowner, Jim Ross, had plans to use the pits left by uranium mining on his property in the 1950s as a dump site for low-level radioactive waste. Ross has said he'd like to fill the pits primarily with spoil piles -- the overburden of dirt that was removed while uranium was being mined. Standard Uranium, a Canadian business, has bought the mining claims to 10,000 acres near Maybell and has the opportunity to lease an additional 2,400.
(Craig Daily Press, July 12, 2005)
A decision by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to encourage Eastern Slope communities to accept low-level radioactive waste has the attention of a Craig group already opposing a proposed site in Moffat County.
Terrie Barrie, chairwoman of Northwest Colorado Cares, said the move could make it easier for local real estate agent Jim Ross to collect low-level radioactive waste in pits in his property that were originally dug to mine uranium.
(Craig Daily Press, June 13, 2005)
A preliminary proposal to retool a defunct uranium mine to accept uranium tailings was presented at the Craig/Moffat County Economic Development Partnership (EDP) meeting on Nov. 17, 2004.
Jim Ross, owner of Intermountain Realty in Craig, received a $6,500 EDP Growing Local Business grant to process more than 25,000 pages of documentation about other repository sites and the history of the former uranium mine located on his property outside of Maybell.
(Craig Daily Press, Nov. 18, 2004)
> for the Maybell UMTRA Title I uranium mill tailings site, see here
> U.S. DOE Office of Legacy Management: Maybell site
Aerial View: Google Maps · MSRMaps
No new claim stakes found on Maybell tailings disposal site in 2013; protections "appear to preclude" any mining activity...
"Several mining claim locator stakes were observed on the site during the 2010 and 2011 inspections; no new stakes were noted during this inspection. The stakes are on the disposal cell and other portions of the site. BLM has informed DOE that these stakes are not actual claims but are lode mining claim locators, which are the precursor to a claim. Research would be needed to determine if there are valid subsurface mineral rights that pre-date the BLM withdrawal for the site. Valid third-party subsurface mineral rights exist on the fee land acquired on the west side of the site. However, in accordance with 10 CFR 40, Appendix A, Criterion 11, a notice was filed in the local public land records that indicates the land is being used for the disposal of radioactive materials and is subject to an NRC license that prohibits the disruption and disturbance of the disposed material. Should it be determined that senior subsurface rights exist that pre-date the withdrawal, protections pursuant to the NRC general license for the disposal site appear to preclude any mining activity that would jeopardize the disposal cell and its associated drainage control structures (i.e., 10 CFR 40.28[d)])."
(2013 Annual Site Inspection and Monitoring Report for Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act Title II Disposal Sites, U.S. DOE, November 2013 - emphasis added)
NRC terminates Umetco Minerals' license for Maybell West uranium mill tailings site
Establishment of the U.S. Department of Energy as the Long-Term Custodian of the Maybell West Uranium Mill Tailings Site in Moffatt County, CO. and Notice of Termination of the Umetco Minerals Corporation Colorado Radioactive Materials License Number 660-01 for the Maybell West Site
Federal Register: April 12, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 69) p. 18551-18552 (download full text )
NRC accepts Long-Term Surveillance Plan for Maybell West uranium mill tailings site
On March 11, 2010, NRC notified the DOE that the NRC staff concludes that all actions required for the termination of the Maybell license have been completed. The NRC hereby accepts the final Long-Term Surveillance Plan (LTSP) for the Maybell West site and establishes the site in the custody and long-term care of DOE under the general license specified in § 40.28.
DOE submits Preliminary Final Long-Term Surveillance Plan for the Maybell West tailings disposal site
On Feb. 16, 2010, DOE submitted to NRC the Preliminary Final Long-Term Surveillance Plan for the Maybell West, Colorado, UMTRCA Title II Disposal Site.
> Download Preliminary Final Long-Term Surveillance Plan for the Maybell West, Colorado, UMTRCA Title II Disposal Site , U.S. DOE Legacy Management, February 2010 (ADAMS Acc. No. ML100550721)
Aerial view: Google Maps · MSRMaps
License No.: Colorado RML # 317-02 (Hecla Mining Co.)
BLM invites comment on scoping for environmental assessment on land withdrawal at former Durita uranium mill site
In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), in coordination with U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Legacy Management (LM), is preparing an environmental assessment (EA) to consider two applications submitted by DOE LM requesting permanent withdrawal of about 70 acres of BLM-managed land, as well as a perpetual access road right-of-way (ROW).
Submit comments by May 6, 2022.
> Access: Durita Land Withdrawal and Right-of-Way , Apr. 6, 2022 (BLM)
Former Durita heap leach site "would not likely" pose an environmental hazard over 1,000-year performance period, groundwater modeling study finds
"In summary, a conservative scenario analysis [...] indicates that the Durita site would not likely pose a risk to the public health and safety or environment over the 1,000-yr performance period. Furthermore, the closest aquifer capable of producing usable water does not appear to be in hydraulic connection with the compliance-designated uppermost saturated layers at the Durita site."
> Download: Independent Scenario Analysis of the Hecla Durita Heap Leaching Site, Final Report , Nov. 4, 2020 (PDF)
DOE issues Draft Long-Term Surveillance Plan for Durita tailings disposal site
> Download: DRAFT Long-Term Surveillance Plan for the Durita, Colorado, UMTRCA Title II Disposal Site, Montrose County, Colorado , U.S. DOE Legacy Management, November 2020
> Download: DRAFT Long-Term Surveillance Plan for the Durita, Colorado, UMTRCA Title II Disposal Site, Montrose County, Colorado , U.S. DOE Legacy Management, November 2021
NRC demands re-installation of monitoring wells at Durita uranium mill site
In a letter dated December 2, 2005, NRC finds that the Colorado Department of Public Healh and Environment's permission to Hecla Mining Co. to discontinue the groundwater detection monitoring program and plug the wells prior to license termination was premature. The NRC now demands that Hecla installs new monitoring wells.
In letters dated March 9, 2006, and May 13, 2014, NRC reinforced its view.
CDPHE issues Draft Completion Review Report for decommissioning of Durita heap leach site
On October 1, 2004, the Colorado Department of Public Healh and Environment issued its Draft Completion Review Report For the Durita Site Located in Montrose County, Colorado:
"In conclusion, CDPHE believes that the Hecla Mining Company's Durita site has met all applicable standards and requirements. With a determination by NRC, as required by Section 274c(4) of the Act, that all applicable standards and requirements have been met, the Colorado radioactive material license, 317-02, may be terminated."
> Download full report (3.4MB PDF - ADAMS Accession No. ML042870433)
Forest Service plans cleanup of abandoned Graysill uranium mine
The public is invited to comment on a report covering the cleanup and cost of reducing hazardous situations at the abandoned Graysill uranium mine near Bolam Pass between Hermosa Creek and Barlow. The Forest Service plans to start remedial work in July 2004.
The study covers the closure of mine shafts, placement of a cover over radioactive rock near the road and costs involved.
Copies of the report are available at the San Juan Public Lands Center, 15 Burnett Court, Durango, CO; the Silverton Public Library, 1111 Reese St.; and at the town hall in Rico. The report is not available online.
Written comments about the mine cleanup must be received by June 21, 2004.
They should be addressed to Kay Zillich, Abandoned Mines Staff, San Juan Public Lands Center, 15 Burnett Ct., Durango CO 81301.
(Durango Herald May 22, 2004)
Aerial view: Google Maps · MSRMaps
> See also:
CDPHE Uravan info
EPA Region 8 Superfund Uravan page
Comment invited on proposed plan for instutional controls at former Uravan uranium mill site
EPA and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment announce the availability of the proposed plan for public review and comment. This proposed plan identifies the Preferred Institutional Controls (ICs) Alternative for addressing the remaining work needed at the site. EPA and CDPHE will hold a public meeting to review the proposed plan and solicit public comment.
Submit comments by November 14, 2017.
> View EPA announcement , Oct. 16, 2017
> Download proposed plan and supporting documents
Alternative Soils Standards for the Uravan uranium mill site
NRC approves Alternative Soils Standards for the Uravan uranium mill site
> Federal Register Volume 77, Number 114 (Wednesday, June 13, 2012) p. 35431-35432
(download full text )
NRC staff endorses proposed Alternative Soils Standards for the Uravan uranium mill site
> Download SECY-12-0042, Colorado Alternative Standards; Implementation of the Alternative Standards Provision in Section 274o of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, As Amended , March 19, 2012
NRC invites comment on proposed Alternative Soils Standards for the Uravan uranium mill site
"By letter dated October 10, 2007, the Colorado Department of
Public Health and the Environment (CDPHE)'s, Hazardous Materials and
Waste Management Division (the Division) submitted a proposal for
alternative standards for soil clean up in four areas of the Uravan
Site in Montrose County, Colorado. The Division approved the proposed
alternative standards and requested the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory
Commission's (NRC or the Commission) concurrence. Colorado's proposed
alternative soil standards are to leave the remaining radioactive
contamination in place in these four areas without any further
remediation. The NRC staff has determined that Colorado's proposal
constitutes use of alternative standards. Under Section 274o of the
Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended (the Act), the Commission must
make a determination that such alternatives will achieve a level of
stabilization and containment of the sites concerned, and a level of
protection for public health, safety, and the environment from
radiological and non-radiological hazards associated with such sites,
after notice and opportunity for public hearing."
An analysis prepared by NRC staff supports the proposed alternative soil standards.
Submit comments by December 12, 2011.
> Federal Register Volume 76, Number 218 (Thursday, November 10, 2011) p. 70170-70173 (download full text )
> View Docket ID NRC-2011-0258
> Download NRC Staff Analysis of Proposed Colorado Alternative Standards for the Uravan, Colorado Uranium Mill (Nov. 14, 2011)
Appeals Court dismisses claims by former Uravan residents who sued Umetco in suspected radiation-related illnesses
On August 21, 2009, the 10th District Appellate Court rejected a lawsuit from Uravan workers, residents and family against UMETCO (former Dow Chemical subsidiary) on the grounds that the plaintiffs could not demonstrate that their cancers and other illnesses would not have occurred "but for" the ionizing radiation from the mill and mines.
The court did not question that the radiation caused "DNA damage and cell death". On the other hand, not surprisingly, no physicians would testify that there was no way that some other cause such as smoking, bad genes, or exposure sometime in their life to pollutants such as leaded gasoline or urban air pollution could have caused cancer.
(Montrose Daily Press Sep. 12, 2009)
> Download Court Opinion No. 07-1532, U.S. Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit, Aug. 21, 2009 (222k PDF)
Uravan uranium mill site cleanup complete
The 20-year, $120 million cleanup of the old Uravan mill site along the San Miguel River in western Montrose County was completed on Sep. 29, 2008.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency certified completion of the cleanup and was preparing to hand over management of the site to the Department of Energy, said Rebecca Thomas, Uravan site manager for the EPA.
The cleanup eliminated threat to surface and groundwater from the 680-acre [275 hectare] site that dates back to the beginning of the nuclear age.
The cleanup removed more than 13 million cubic yards [9.9 million m3] of mill tailings, evaporation-pond precipitates, water-treatment sludge, contaminated soil and debris from more than 50 major mill structures on the site.
The wastes are contained in four on-site disposal cells, which also contain wastes from a nearby abandoned mill in Gateway and tailings from the Naturita mill site.
More than 380 million gallons [1.44 million m3] of contaminated liquid were treated in the cleanup.
State and federal agencies worked with Umetco, a subsidiary of Dow Chemical, which operated the site since 1984.
Federal jurisdiction over the site will be transferred to the Energy Department, which will monitor the repositories and other aspects of the cleanup.
Even though the cleanup is done, the job of monitoring is not, Deckler said.
“We'll keep watching that site pretty much forever,” he said.
(Grand Junction Daily Sentinel Sep. 29, 2008)
Study finds no increased mortality among residents near former Uravan uranium mill
A cohort mortality study was conducted of all adult residents who ever lived in
Uravan, Colorado, a company town built around a uranium mill. Vital status was
determined through 2004 and standardised mortality analyses conducted for 1905
men and women alive after 1978 who lived for at least 6 months between 1936 and
1984 in Uravan.
This community cohort study revealed a significant excess of lung cancer among males who had been employed as underground miners. The authors attribute this excess to the historically high levels of radon in uranium mines of the Colorado Plateau, coupled with the heavy use of tobacco products. There was no evidence that environmental radiation exposures above natural background associated with the uranium mill operations increased the risk of cancer.
Mortality among residents of Uravan, Colorado who lived near a uranium mill, 1936-84, by Boice JD Jr, Cohen SS, Mumma MT, et al., in: Journal of Radiological Protection, September 2007, Vol. 27 (No.3), p.299-319
Funding awarded for Uravan Mine Restoration project
On February 11, 2005, Colorado's Natural Resource Trustees authorized nearly
$2.1 million for three projects designed to enhance natural resources in the Uravan area in western Colorado with funds from the Uravan Superfund cleanup.
One of these projects is the Uravan Mine Restoration project, which receives $852,000 for abandoned uranium mine reclamation and stream restoration adjacent to the Uravan mining and milling site.
The funding for the projects came from an award to the state from the UMETCO Minerals Corporation in a 1987 settlement resulting from environmental damages resulting from mining and milling activity on the site near Uravan.
> View CDPHE release Feb. 14, 2005
EPA announces partial deletion of the Uravan Superfund Site from the National Priorities List
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 8 is publishing a direct final notice of partial deletion of 9.84 acres within the Uravan Superfund Site (Site), located in Montrose County, Colorado, from the National Priorities List (NPL).
This direct final deletion will be effective February 18, 2005.
If adverse comments are received by January 19, 2005, EPA will publish
a timely withdrawal of the direct final deletion in the Federal
Register informing the public that the deletion will not take effect.
Federal Register: December 20, 2004 (Volume 69, Number 243) p. 75847-75850 (download full text )
EPA to enter into settlement agreement on Umetco Uravan Superfund site
The proposed Agreement resolves Superfund liability for certain costs under section 107 of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980, as amended (CERCLA), against UMETCO Minerals Corporation. The Agreement requires UMETCO to pay EPA $125,000 in full satisfaction of EPA's claim for costs incurred and to be incurred in connection with the deletion
of the Uravan Superfund Site from the National Priorities List.
For 30 days following Feb. 2, 2004, EPA will accept written comments relating to the proposed Agreement.
Federal Register: February 2, 2004 (Volume 69, Number 21) p. 4935 (download full text)
Former Uravan residents sue Umetco in suspected radiation-related illnesses
A group of Coloradans has sued Union Carbide, saying the firm failed to protect them from deadly radiation when they lived near a company uranium mine.
The 28-page suit filed on Jan. 23, 2004, in U.S. District Court in Denver accuses the company of causing the death from radiation exposure of four people and illness among more than 70 others.
Union Carbide took over a uranium mine and mill in Uravan in 1928 and ran them until 1984. By 1986, contamination forced evacuation of the town south of Grand Junction along the Dolores River.
(Denver Post Jan. 24, 2004)
Disposal of off-site material at Uravan uranium mill site
Umetco Minerals Corp., a wholly owned subsidiary of Union Carbide , is seeking renewal of its license to dispose of 600,000 cubic yards (460,000 m3) off-site contaminated material at the site of its former Uravan uranium mill. The company plans to bid early in 2001 for an EPA project to remove some 94,000 cubic yards (72,000 m3) of contaminated waste from the old Shattuck Chemical Co. site in Denver and dispose of it at its Uravan site.
The license renewal is being opposed by the environmental group Western Colorado Congress (WCC) .
Public Hearings on the issue were held at Naturita, Colorado, on November 15/16, 2000.
On June 8, 2001, Judge Richard Dana, of Judicial Arbiter Group, Inc., approved the renewal of Umetco's state-issued radioactive material license, but imposed conditions. He concluded that some fears voiced by an environmental group were unfounded.
Western Colorado Congress, which had opposed the license renewal, also claimed victory. It cited license conditions that regulate offsite waste disposal at the facility. (Rocky Mountain News June 8, 2001)
In July 2001, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has decided not to truck waste from the Shattuck Chemical Co. site to Uravan. Instead, the waste will be shipped by rail to one of three sites already operating under a federal contract. Those sites are in Idaho, Utah and Texas. (Denver Post July 7, 2001)
Van 4 mine, Montrose County
Court orders closure and cleanup of Van 4 uranium mine that went idle 30 years ago
A decision from the Colorado Court of Appeals on Thursday (July 25, 2019) has ordered the closure and reclamation of a long-dormant uranium mine in western Montrose County. The court
ruling reaffirmed state law that requires the reclamation of mines within 10 years of
ceasing production and ordered a cleanup of the Van 4 Mine after determining that it had
not operated since at least 1989.
The Information Network for Responsible Mining (INFORM) , Sheep Mountain Alliance
and Earthworks sued the Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Board after the Board voted
to approve an extended period of "temporary cessation" for the Van 4 Mine, despite the
fact that the state mining law limits that idle period to 10 years.
Despite a 1977 state law that requires all mines to be fully reclaimed after mining ends,
state regulators did not enforce the law for several decades. As a result, several dozen
uranium mines on the Western Slope were never cleaned up despite having ceased
operations in the 1980s, as operators continued to find loopholes that allowed them to
postpone cleanups indefinitely.
The Van 4 Mine was constructed in the late 1970s but had only a short run before going
idle in the uranium bust that followed. Since receiving its current, active permit in 1997,
the mine has had no record of ore production. The permit for the Van 4 Mine is currently
held by Piñon Ridge Mining LLC, a subsidiary of Western Uranium & Vanadium Corporation .
> Download: Colorado Court of Appeals opinion, 2019COA114 , July 25, 2019 (119 kB PDF)
Colorado Court of Appeals No. 18CA1148: Information Network v. Colo Mined Land - Energy and Environment - Mining - Mined Land Reclamation Act
> View background information on Uranium Mill Tailings Management - USA