URANIUM MINING FACT SHEET
WHY NEW URANIUM MINES AND THE RESTART AND
EXPANSION OF OLD MINES IS A BAD IDEA
The nuclear fuel chain starts with uranium mining, the most unregulated and technically backward part of the nuclear industry. Unlike uranium milling, the processing and manufacturing to convert uranium into nuclear fuel, nuclear reactors, and the disposal of high and low-level nuclear reactor waste, the regulation of uranium mining does not fall under the Atomic Energy Act. The regulation of uranium mining depends on the state and the status of the land. Uranium mining on federal lands is regulated by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or U.S. Forest Service (USFS). Uranium mining on federal lands falls under outdated mining laws and regulations and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). State mining laws and regulations may also apply. In Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico, all uranium mines must have a permit from the state agency that regulates mining. In Arizona, uranium mines on federal lands do not need a state permit.
Most of the land degradation and the impacts to human health (including many deaths from lung cancer) are the result of uranium mining in the US since the 1940s. The milling of uranium results in the most radioactive waste (millions of tons) that must be kept under government control as long as we have a government in the U.S. The U.S. taxpayer has spent billions of dollars to compensate uranium mine and mill workers and to cleanup uranium mines and mills.
Say No to Uranium Mining in Utah
• Uranium mines are sources of radioactive and non-radioactive contamination of earth, air, and ground and surface water. The radioactive contaminants include radon gas and particulates from uranium and uranium progeny.
• Uranium mines leave radioactive waste on public lands in perpetuity. This includes low-grade ore, waste rock, and contaminated rocks and soil. There is no requirement for long-term care and maintenance, leaving waste piles that will eventually erode.
• Uranium mines often remain on standby for decades before final reclamation.
• The land disturbed for uranium mining in Utah will take centuries for the vegetation to return to what it had been before mining. Land cleared for uranium mining and exploration drilling over 50 years ago is clearly apparent in aerial photos of southeast Utah.
• The BLM and USFS do not have any specific regulations addressing the unique impacts from uranium mining.
• There are hundreds of uranium mines in Utah that have been inadequately remediated or not remediated at all.
• Currently there is no funding to remediate abandoned uranium mines on public lands in Utah.
• State and federal regulations are inadequate and have not been properly administered and enforced. Both the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining and BLM have consitently not enforced their regulations regarding the temporary suspension of mining operations.
• There are no Utah or federal radiological cleanup criteria for uranium mines. The BLM allows high-levels of uranium and radium to remain at uranium mine sites. The BLM allows miners to leave un-reclaimed contaminated materials that were caused by past uranium mining operations.
• The BLM has never looked at the cumulative impacts from uranium mining on federal lands in Utah.
Say No to the Expansion of the Daneros Uranium Mine
Specific Daneros Mine Issues
• The Daneros Mine is close to Natural Bridges National Monument. The dust, radioactive emissions, truck traffic to the White Mesa Mill, and the cumulative long-term degradation of the land will have a negative impact on this area for many decades.
• The mine owner, Energy Fuels Resources Inc. (EFR), and its predecessor, Denison Mines Corp., and their contractors have histories of non-compliance with federal Mine Safety and and Health Administration regulations, including those associated with their responsibility for the fatal death of a mine worker in 2010.
• EFR closed the Daneros Mine and their other Utah uranium mines in 2012, due to the low price of uranium. With no prospect of an increase in that price in the near future, EFR is still trying to permit the Daneros Mine expansion without knowing when they would expand the mine. Once a mine is permitted, it is very difficult to get the BLM to give any consideration to new conditions or new environmental impacts.
• The reopening of old mine workings and portals will cause accumulated radon to be released from the mines and have a greater impact on underground mine workers.
• Continued uranium mining on the Colorado Plateau will require continued expansion of the tailings impoundments at the White Mesa Uranium Mill, south of Blanding in San Juan County. White Mesa is an Archeological District with numerous underground pit houses, storage areas, burials, and other artifacts that are not visible because they are underground. These unique early habitations will continue to be destroyed as the White Mesa Mill expands.
• EFR currently has seven other permitted, but non-operational uranium mines in Utah (La Sal Complex, Pandora, Energy Queen, Rim, Sage, Tony M, Pine Ridge), with no schedule for when these mines will reopen or when they will close and be remediated. All but one of these mines is in San Juan County. No further mining should occur until EFR has scheduled the remediation of existing permitted mines.
• The BLM should develop a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Daneros Mine expansion.
[Uranium Watch will continue to add additional information regarding uranium mining issues to this page.]
Last Updated February 11, 2014