DENVER - Energy Fuels Corp. formally applied for a permit to build a uranium mill in Western Colorado on Wednesday.
The mill, proposed for the Paradox Valley west of Naturita, would be the first new uranium mill in the country in 25
years. It has caused heated debate in the Paradox Valley, in part because it could restart the uranium mining
industry in Southwest Colorado.
Montrose County Commissioners approved zoning for the mill, known as the PiÃ±on Ridge mill, in September.
A Telluride environmental group, Sheep Mountain Alliance, sued Montrose County late last month, claiming the
commissioners abused their discretion in granting the permit for the industrial facility in an agricultural area.
This week's application to the state triggers a 10- to 15-month process that will include two public hearings.
State regulators will zero in on health effects of the mill in both the short- and long-term, said Steve Tarlton, radiation program manager for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
"Colorado has the most stakeholder-focused review process for uranium licensing in the United States," Tarlton said.
Tarlton's office has 30 days to determine if the application is complete. Once it does, Energy Fuels has 75 days to
hold two public hearings. Those hearings probably will happen in Montrose and the Nucla-Naturita area, said Energy
Fuels spokesman Gary Steele.
After the hearings, state law gives regulators nine to 12 months to approve or deny the permit.
Energy Fuels CEO George Glasier said he is confident his application will pass muster with the state.
Travis Stills, a Durango lawyer who represents mill opponents, said Energy Fuels can expect plenty of opposition.
"There will be considerable technical, grass-roots and legal scrutiny of whatever it is they have proposed there,"
Stills filed the lawsuit in state court in Montrose against the county commissioners on behalf of Sheep Mountain
Alliance. In the lawsuit, mill opponents claim the county commissioners should not have approved the permit, because
in the middle of the process, the company cut the amount of ore it intended to process in half and doubled the
projected life of the mill to 40 years. The lawsuit also claims that the mill should not have been approved in the
Paradox Valley because it would carry much higher environmental risks than uranium mines, which are common the in the
A spokeswoman for Montrose County did not return messages Wednesday afternoon.