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(last updated 5 Dec 2016)
State Rep. Don Coram is taking steps to clean up and shut down four uranium mines he owns, making him among the first uranium mine operators in Colorado to call it quits for now and restore the land to its pre-mined condition. The action comes after several years of legal pressure by activists on the state and federal government to shut down the old uranium mines that dot the landscape of San Miguel and Montrose counties. (The Cortez Journal June 10, 2013)
State concludes settlement deal with Cotter Corp. to stop groundwater contamination at defunct Schwartzwalder mine: Colorado has made legal peace with Cotter Corp. in a push for quicker cleanup of a mine leaking uranium into a creek that reaches a Denver Water reservoir.
The latest test data show that highly toxic water in the Schwartzwalder mine's main shaft seeps underground into Ralston Creek, which flows to Ralston Reservoir.
A settlement deal requires Cotter to pump and treat millions of gallons of water and lower the level to 150 feet below the top of that 2,000-foot-deep shaft. This is intended to prevent uranium - in concentrations up to 1,000 times the health standard - from contaminating water supplies. Cotter also must provide $3.5 million in financial assurance money to ensure cleanup of the mine west of Denver is done and pay a civil penalty of $55,000. Another $39,000 in penalties is to be waived.
The deal, approved by state regulators, ends Cotter's lawsuits challenging state orders to clean up the mine and the creek. A state judge ruled in favor of regulators and Cotter appealed the decision. (Denver Post Oct. 3, 2012)
Cotter ordered to build bypass pipeline at its Schwartzwalder Mine to stop uranium contamination of water:
Uranium-laden water from a contaminated mine is still flowing into Ralston Creek, leading state regulators Wednesday (Sep. 28) to demand that the mine's owner divert creek water away from its facility and find the source of the contamination.
Although the pollutants exceed state standards, the health department said treatment methods already in place will keep the public safe.
Cotter Corp., which owns the defunct Schwartzwalder Mine in Jefferson County, has until Oct. 7 to submit a design- and-construction plan for a bypass pipeline. That pipeline is to be "substantially completed" by Jan. 31. Additionally, Cotter is required to submit a plan and time schedule for the "aggressive removal or containment of all groundwater and surface water pollutant sources" at the mine. (Denver Post Sep. 29, 2011)
> Download CDPHE release Sep. 28, 2011 (PDF)
> Download District Court Decision, Sep. 30, 2011 (PDF)
Cotter Corp. will comply with state orders to remove contaminated water from its defunct Schwartzwalder uranium mine west of Denver, the company's president said Wednesday (Oct. 12). He did not commit to a timetable for that cleanup, though a creek-diversion pipe around the mine should be done by Jan. 31.
State mining regulators, meanwhile, were discussing possible next steps in their standoff with Cotter and moved to increase the bond money Colorado is holding from Cotter to guarantee a cleanup if the company walked away from the mess.
Denver District Court Judge Robert Hyatt recently ruled in favor of state mining regulators in one of two lawsuits Cotter filed challenging orders to clean up the Schwartzwalder mine. That decision clears the way for removal of contaminated mine water and the posting of sufficient bond money to protect Ralston Creek, which flows into a Denver drinking-water-supply reservoir. (Denver Post Oct. 13, 2011)
The Colorado health department's water quality control division says Cotter completed a pipeline Tuesday (Apr. 10) to divert up to 8 cubic feet [227 litres] per second of creek flows past the mine. The Colorado health department had ordered Cotter to divert water from the creek away from the Schwartzwalder Mine so that pollutants wouldn't get into the creek water. Ralston Creek flows into a Denver Water reservoir that provides drinking water. (CBS Apr. 12, 2012)
State board imposes additional $39,000 penalty against Cotter Corp for failure to clean up contaminated mine water at Schwartzwalder uranium mine:
The Mined Land Reclamation Board today (Nov. 18) found that Cotter Corp. violated state mining law by failing to comply with the Aug. 11 Board order to draw water from the defunct Schwartzwalder uranium mine west of Denver and treat it, and to submit an appropriate financial warranty to cover this action, said Loretta Piñeda, director of the Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety.
The board also imposed the $55,000 in penalties contained in the August order, and added an additional penalty of $39,000 for its failure to take any action since then.
Denver Water's testing has detected elevated levels of uranium in Ralston reservoir and just upstream. The latest tests from the creek showed 580 parts per billion of uranium, up from 566 ppb in October 2009, spokeswoman Stacy Chesney said. (Denver Post Nov. 18, 2010)
Cotter Corp. sues Colorado over cleanup order for contaminated mine water at Schwartzwalder uranium mine:
Cotter Corp. has sued a state board, claiming regulators exceeded their authority in ordering a cleanup of a contaminated Cotter uranium mine in Jefferson County.
The lawsuit, recently filed in Denver District Court, accuses Colorado's Mined Lands Reclamation Board of abusing its discretion when it ordered Cotter to pump out and treat uranium-tainted water that inspections have shown to be rising toward the rim of Cotter's defunct Schwartzwalder mine. The mine is northwest of Golden along Ralston Creek, upstream from a Denver Water reservoir that supplies drinking water to 1.3 million metro-area residents.
At issue is whether state regulators had enough evidence to order the cleanup and impose fines. Cotter is seeking a judge's order to reverse both of those actions. (Denver Post Oct. 7, 2010)
Cotter Corp. defies State orders to clean up contaminated mine water at Schwartzwalder uranium mine:
Cotter Corp. is defying state orders to clean up its contaminated uranium mine west of Denver and refusing to pay fines for failing to do so.
State mining regulators' latest inspection has found that uranium-tainted water is rising toward the rim of Cotter's defunct Schwartzwalder mine upstream from a Denver Water reservoir.
State regulators on Monday (Sep. 20) were moving to increase a $55,000 fine and schedule another enforcement hearing in November. They said unless emergency powers can be invoked, state law leaves few other options.
Since April, Cotter, a subsidiary of San Diego-based General Atomics, has faced repeated state orders to pump and treat toxic water filling the mine, northwest of Golden along Ralston Creek. The creek, which flows into Denver Water's Ralston Reservoir, contains uranium levels as high as 310 parts per billion - more than 10 times the 30 ppb health standard for drinking water. (Denver Post Sep. 21, 2010)
Cotter Corp. performs only partial cleanup of contaminated mine water at Schwartzwalder uranium mine: Cotter Corp., which had agreed to remove tainted water from its closed uranium mine northwest of Golden, has chosen to pump and clean only surface ponds, drawing a new warning from the state. The now-defunct Schwartzwalder mine is suspected of having contaminated water outside the 2,000-foot shaft and inside it. The company, however, is treating only what are called alluvial ponds and not the water inside the mine. "Pumping just from the alluvium will not be sufficient to mitigate the uranium-contamination problem," said Loretta Piñeda, Colorado director of mining, reclamation and safety. "(State regulators) have ordered Cotter to pump and treat from both the alluvium and the mine pool." State officials recently fined Cotter $55,000, then suspended all but $2,500 on the condition that Cotter initiate a cleanup by Aug. 31. That could include any action, such as positioning the right equipment at the mine. (Denver Post Aug. 27, 2010)
Water cleanup started at closed Schwartzwalder uranium mine: The owner of a defunct uranium mine leaking pollution along a creek that flows into a Denver Water reservoir has launched a cleanup as ordered, state officials confirmed Thursday (July 8). Cotter Corp. installed a system that can pump and treat up to 50 gallons per minute of contaminated water from inside its Schwartzenwalder Mine, west of Denver in Jefferson County. (Denver Post July 9, 2010)
Cleanup set for uranium-tainted water at closed Schwartzwalder uranium mine Operators of a defunct uranium mine accused by the state of contaminating groundwater and a nearby creek have agreed to begin a cleanup by the end of July. "We intend to comply to the best of our ability," Cotter Corp. vice president John Hamrick said. Cotter will pump and treat tainted water from inside its Schwartzwalder mine in Jefferson County, then seek a state permit before releasing treated water back into Ralston Creek, Hamrick said. Cotter was responding to a cease-and-desist order issued June 1 by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Fines as high as $10,000 per day could be imposed. (Denver Post June 15, 2010)
State rejects plan for water cleanup of Cotter's defunct Schwartzwalder uranium mine:
State regulators Thursday (May 20) directed Cotter Corp. to treat water from its nonoperating uranium mine in Jefferson County to keep contamination from reaching Ralston Reservoir, a drinking-water supply for Denver Water and the city of Arvada.
The state Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety rejected the protection plan Cotter submitted last month and instructed the Denver-based company to submit a water-treatment plan within two weeks, the agency said in a news release.
The mine closed in 2000, and Cotter dismantled its treatment plant in 2002, according to the agency. Drinking water remains safe, Denver Water and Arvada authorities said, because uranium has been removed by water-treatment plants. The latest water-quality tests showed that Ralston Creek below the mine carried as much as 390 parts per billion of uranium, 13 times higher than the safety standard. Cotter had proposed a man-made wetland and a chemical filter to capture uranium leaking from the mine. (Denver Post May 21, 2010)
State health officials reject Cotter Corp.'s proposal to reduce uranium in groundwater: Colorado health officials say Cotter Corp.'s plans to reduce uranium in groundwater at a mine near Golden are not acceptable. Cotter has submitted a plan to state mining regulators to reduce uranium levels in Ralston Creek from the closed Schwartzwalder Mine. The water flows into a reservoir that supplies some of Denver's drinking water. The Water Quality Control Division of the state health department told mining regulators in a memo Monday (May 10) that Cotter's plan doesn't reduce uranium in the water to acceptable levels. (Denver Post May 12, 2010)
A defunct uranium mine in Jefferson County is contaminating groundwater near a reservoir, but government regulators and mine executives have yet to settle on a plan for cleanup.
Uranium concentrations in groundwater 30 feet beneath the brim of the Schwartzwalder Mine exceed the human health standard for uranium by more than 1,000 times, according to state records reviewed Thursday (Apr. 15).
Unhealthy concentrations also were detected in Ralston Creek, which eventually enters Denver Water's Ralston Reservoir. The reservoir supplies water to Denver and Arvada.
Denver Water managers say no uranium contamination has entered the drinking-water supply.
State officials said they want the mine's owner - Greenwood Village-based Cotter Corp., a subsidiary of General Atomics - to submit by Monday (April 19) a plan for dealing with the contamination at the mine. Colorado mining regulators warned Cotter in July "that water quality degradation at the Schwartzwalder Mine is critical and may be approaching conditions requiring emergency response." Three months later, state officials rejected an initial Cotter protection plan as inadequate, declaring "a potential hazard to human health, property and the environment."
Neither Cotter nor the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment , which is responsible for water quality, notified Denver Water. "It would have been nice to know," said Brian Good, Denver Water's manager of operations and maintenance. Denver Water now will increase testing for uranium, Good said, calling on Cotter to clean it up. Because Denver's Moffat water-treatment plant is closed for maintenance, no Ralston Reservoir water currently enters Denver's drinking-water system, Good said. "Our water is safe," he said, "but it's a little bit troubling that (uranium) is coming into our reservoir in those concentrations." (Denver Post Apr. 16, 2010, emphasis added)
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Mining regulators order Cotter Corp. to address heaps of toxic uranium ore at dormant western Colorado mine:
State mining regulators have found heaps of toxic uranium ore at a dormant Cotter Corp. mine in western Colorado and are moving to prevent contamination of land and water near the Dolores River.
The regulators ordered Cotter to build berms around the 300 to 500 tons of uranium ore by Nov. 17 and to remove the uranium by early next year.
"The worry is that an inactive mine can have maintenance and upkeep problems. It could cause polluted runoff," said Bob Randall, deputy director of Colorado's Department of Natural Resources . "What we want Cotter to do is clear it. They've got to put the berms up. They've got two weeks to do it."
Regulators also have ordered Cotter to submit an environmental protection plan.
Separately, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment officials are poised to renew Cotter's water-discharge permit for the mine, requiring compliance with current federal standards, said Steve Gunderson, the agency's water-quality director. (Denver Post Nov. 4, 2010)
A battle over how state environmental regulations apply to western Colorado uranium mines is heating up in Montrose County's West End, where Cotter Corp. plans to re-open four uranium mines sitting dormant since 2005.
The Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Board christened three of Cotter's dormant mine sites near Naturita as "designated mining operations," or "DMOs," requiring Cotter to comply with strict environmental regulations and create an environmental protection plan. Cotter is appealing the board's decision because complying with stringent environmental regulations would be a burden on its mining operation and require that it put more effort into planning at the mine, said Glen Williams, Cotter's Western Colorado Manager of Mining. (Grand Junction Sentinel Jul. 10, 2007)
Cotter Corp. closed six uranium mines in the Uravan area last week and laid off 49 workers, company officials said. Richard Cherry, president of Cotter Corp., said in a statement that he is hopeful production will resume after the company revamps its operations. (Grand Junction Sentinel Nov. 8, 2005)
The Cotter Corp. this week opened one new Western Slope uranium and vanadium mine and said it plans to open three more in 2005.
The company reopened several mines in Montrose County near Nucla and Naturita in August 2004 after more than a decade of dormancy, and with the recent renewal of the company's license to operate its Cañon City milling operation, Western Slope ore will be what keeps the mill busy. (Grand Junction Sentinel Dec. 16, 2004)
On Feb. 2, 2009, Bluerock Resources Ltd. announced it has notified the underlying vendors of the J-Bird Uranium Mine and the Cone Mountain Uranium Mine that it is returning these properties to them as the Company has not met required option payments due to market conditions. The company has ceased permitting and development on its projects.
On Oct. 7, 2008, Bluerock Resources Ltd. announced a two week shutdown of US operations while the company works to ensure adequate working capital to allow for continued development and production at its US uranium mining operations.
On April 29, 2008, Bluerock Resources Ltd. announced the first production of uranium development ore at the J-Bird Mine, Montrose Country, Colorado. Uranium ore will be stockpiled at the J-Bird Mine and then transported to Denison Mines' White Mesa Mill under the Company's Ore Purchase and/or Toll Milling Agreement.
"The Department has determined that the proposed ablation operations at the Sunday Mine by Black Range Minerals must be regulated by the Department through a milling license pursuant to Part 18 of the Regulations because the proposed ablation operations at the Sunday Mine meet the regulatory definition of source material milling in Section 1.2.2 of the Regulations: an "activity that results in the production of radioactive material that meets byproduct material definition (2)." The wastes from the proposed ablation operations at the Sunday Mine meet the definition of byproduct material in Section 1.2.2 of the Regulations because they are produced by the concentration of uranium processed primarily for its source material content. However, because these wastes, appear to possess significantly less radiological and hazardous risk than typical uranium mill tailings, the Department believes that it may be appropriate to consider alternative disposal methods to those required in Part 18, Appendix A of the Regulations. In accordance with Part 18, Appendix A, such alternative disposal methods require approval by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)."> Download related documents (CDPHE)
CDPHE halts ablation trials until completion of regulatory evaluation:
"At this time the Department is conducting an evaluation of the applicability of the Colorado Radiation Control Act to uranium ablation technologies. This is a first step before any licensing for the use of ablation technologies, if needed, would take place. This evaluation has or will include requests for additional information from uranium ablation proponents and a public stakeholder process. [...]
Until the Department determines whether its regulations and the Colorado Radiation Control Act allow for uranium ablation without a license, no one may conduct a uranium ablation activity in Colorado unless the total quantity of source material used and possessed as part of and resulting from the activity meets the qualifications for a source material general license to use and transfer not more than 6.82 kg (15 pounds) of source material at any one time."
> Download CDPHE Notice regarding use of uranium ablation technologies , Sep. 24, 2015 (80k PDF)
Ablation units to be constructed at Sunday Mine Complex: On Sep. 16, 2015, Western Uranium Corp. announced that, after a successful operational demonstration was undertaken on Sep. 11 and 12, 2015, the company now plans to construct additional production ablation units to employ at its fully permitted Sunday Mine Complex.
> For the use of ablation technology, see also: Hansen project
> Download Environmental Assessment (BLM)
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