Piñon Ridge Mill License Questioned (yet again)

Last week, Denver District Judge Robert McGahey ruled that the contested Piñon Ridge Uranium Mill license needs further review to ascertain if the application from Energy Fuels truly meets “all criteria under state law.” The order, which temporarily suspends the mill license, sends the license back to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to determine its legality.

At the crux of the issue whether or not appropriate action was taken after a court ordered hearing that took place in November 2012. At that hearing, technical experts testified on behalf of Sheep Mountain Alliance (SMA) and Rocky Mountain Wild (RMW) to prove that Energy Fuel’s application was based on false information and that the environmental review was incomplete. WCC members also testified at the hearing, expressing concerns about the regional and cumulative impacts of the potential mill on public health, the regional economy, and lack of sufficient insurance money (bonding) to clean up the mill.

“This process has been mishandled by the state agency from the start and the district court has agreed, again”, stated Hilary Cooper, Executive Director of Sheep Mountain Alliance. “If the state chooses to continue this process, it will be talking action on a 2009 application for a project that will most likely never be built.”

SMA filed a lawsuit against the State of Colorado in February, 2011, after the first radioactive materials license was issued to Energy Fuels. The judge agreed with SMA’s challenge and ordered an independent hearing officer to conduct a hearing in November 2012.

The hearing officer did not take action on issues raised during the hearing. Instead, the hearing officer merely sent the file to the state with simple direction to proceed with the license consideration. The state then issued a second license to Energy Fuels in April 2013. SMA and RMW again challenged the decision and today’s ruling found that the hearing officer “failed to make a conclusion as to whether Energy Fuels application met all criteria for issuance of a license pursuant”.

In the meantime, Energy Fuels acquired the existing White Mesa Uranium Mill in Blanding, Utah and admitted that they did not intend to build the Piñon Ridge Mill due to lack of favorable economic conditions and the redundancy of two mills in close proximity. In addition, Energy Fuels has entered into a contract to sell the Piñon Ridge Mill property and other assets to George Glasier, the original founder of Energy Fuels, who is backed by Baobab Asset Management, Inc.

“The State has a clear choice here to deny the Energy Fuels application and require a future developer to reapply with an updated application, which must address the conditions on the ground at that time” states Cooper.

Although Glasier and his associates view the ruling in a positive light (according to a 9/10 Montrose daily Press article by Dick Kamp), Energy Fuels has been silent on the issue.

So the license is back in CDPHE hands, and the laundry list of concerns and defects in the mill license application go unanswered. We wonder if they ever will be addressed, or if the project is even relevant today, five years later. The application is dated and flawed and there is still no market for uranium. In the same article, even Glasier stated “…if the price stays forever where it is ($32/lbs), then there will be no mining and no milling.”

It is time to move on from the false promises of the Piñon Ridge Mill. As Jeff Parsons, the attorney representing SMA, put it, “It isn’t appropriate just to sell a uranium mill license on the public market to rich speculators and hold a community hostage; the whole thing is wasting everybody’s time.”

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