WHITE MESA MILL
BLM - ENERGY FUELS 1985 LAND EXCHANGE

When Energy Fuels Ltd. (EFL), the original owner and licensee of the White Mesa Uranium Mill in San Juan County, Utah, was in the process of licensing the White Mesa Uranium Mill in the late 1970s, they realized they needed additional land next to the Mill site to provide a buffer zone. Both the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the State of Utah requested a buffer zone.

EFL proposed a land exchange to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for federal land adjacent to the Mill site.

Note: Energy Fuels Ltd. is not the same company as Energy Fuels Resources (USA) Inc., the current Mill owner, or Energy Fuels Inc., the current Mill owner's Canadian parent company.

After a few years of negotiation, in 1985 the BLM exchanged BLM lands adjacent to the Mill site for private lands owned by EFL. EFL acquired about 2,600 acres adjacent to the Mill in exchange for about 3,000 acres in Emery, Utah, and Carbon Counties. The White Mesa Mill and BLM land exchange parcels are adjacent to the lands and community of the White Mesa Band of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe. There is no evidence of any BLM consultation with the Tribe regarding the Land Exchange.

That Land Exchange included a binding Cultural Resources Easement Agreement, which is still in effect today.

As part of the Land Exchange, in 1979 the BLM made a request to the Carol D. Shull, Acting Keeper of the National Register, Heritage Conservation and Recreation Service, that the 195 prehistoric sites in the White Mesa Land Exchange parcel be found eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. The letter stated that the parcel was most appropriately considered as an addition to the already-eligible White Mesa Archaeological District.

The White Mesa Archaeological District, found eligible or the National Register in 1979, encompassed the original White Mesa Uranium Mill site. Several of the archaeological sites in the original White Mesa Archaeological District were excavated, buried, or destroyed during the construction of the Mill.

On September 4, 1980, the Moab BLM District Manager sent a letter to the Advisory Council of Historic Preservation stated:

Accordingly, we have analyzed the cultural impacts of the proposed land exchange and have made Determination of No Adverse Effect (see Enclosure I for documentation). This finding is based on the inclusion of the enclosed cultural preservation covenant in the deed to be binding on Energy Fuels Nuclear Inc., its successors in interest (Enclosure 2). Since the Utah State Historical Preservation Office helped us construct the cultural preservation stipulation, we are confident of their concurrence and are seeking such documentation concurrently with this letter.

On September 11, 1980, the entire Energy Fuels Exchange Parcel (addition to the White Mesa Archeological District) was found eligible for the National Register by the Keeper of the National Register.

On August 26, 1985, Energy Fuels Ltd. and the BLM executed a Cultural Resource Easement Agreement, which was recorded with San Juan County deeds. The Agreement states, in part:

The patentee (Energy Fuels, Ltd.) or its heirs, sucessors-in-interest shall determine the potential adverse effect of proposed land disturbing activities on the cultural sites, as shown on Attachment "A" which have been identified as potentially eligible for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places, and complete the following steps.

The Easement stated BLM obligations:

Periodic inspections of sites shall be performed by Bureau of Land Management personnel by prior arrangement with the patentee to assure compliance with these provisions at intervals not greater than three (3) years. Should surface distrubing activity be noted at any time, a joint inspection shall be requested of the patentee immediately to assess cultural damages, if any, and determine needed mitigation required.

The BLM promptly forgot about this obligation and has only complied with the archaeological site inspection requirement once in the past 37 years.

BLM LAND EXCHANGE AND CULTURAL RESOURCE AGREEMENT - CHRONOLOGY

June 27, 1978
A June 1978 BLM Internal Memorandum regarding Proposed Land Exchange by Energy Fuels Corporation discusses archaeological values and need to retain some of the lands in Sec. 29, E1/2 E1/2 and the big Westwater Ruins. The memo states that the BLM had "no objection" to the disposal of other lands. The Memo also stated, "However, archaeological inventories may show that these lands are also covered with extensive archaeologica values."

July 20, 1978
A July 24, 1978, BLM Staff Report documents the July 20, 1978, Meeting between BLM staff and Energy Fuels Corporation representatives. The Report states, in part:

The meeting was to discuss lands adjacent to their proposed development south of Blanding.

The State Health Department has asked Energy Fuels to provide a three-fourths mile buffer around their tailings pond. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has specified a one-half mile zone.

August 23, 1978
The August 25, 1978, Meeting Summary documents the August 23, 1978, Meeting with BLM staff and representatives of Energy Fuels Corporation to discuss a land exchange for BLM lands on White Mesa. BLM archaeologist, Bruce Louthan, discussed the archaeological resources expected to be found on the lands, mitigating measures which might be required, and other information. This Meeting Summary contains a map of the BLM lands next to the Mill site.

September 1, 1978
The September 1, 1978, Letter from Energy Fuels Ltd. to the BLM discussed the Energy Fuels-BLM Land Exchange and includes a map.

December 27, 1978
The December 27, 1978, Letter from Energy Fuels Nuclear, Inc., to the BLM discussed the proposed buffer zone.

April 6, 1979
The April 6, 1979, Memo from the Department of Interior, Heritage Conservation and Recreation Service, entitled, “Comments on Preliminary Case Report for Energy Fuels White Mesa Mill.” discussed "The Importance of Small, Surface and Disturbed Sites as Sources of Significant Archeological Data," by Talmadge and Chesler; a Burial of Sites memorandum; and the proposed no effect and no adverse effect determination.

June 22, 1979
The June 22, 1979, Letter from the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation to the Utah State Director of the BLM advised the BLM of the protocol for evaluating the archaeological significance of the Land Exchange properties, in accordance with 36 C.F.R. § 800.4(a) of the Council's regulations.

July 31, 1980
The July 31, 1980, Letter from the Utah State Historic Preservation Officer to the BLM regarding the White Mesa Project, Eligibility, BLM Sites, stated that the Division of State History would be "happy to consult" with the BLM regarding the project.

August 15, 1980
The August 15, 1980, Letter and Nominiation Form from the Kenneth Rhea, District Manager, Moab District, Bureau of Land Management, to Carol D. Shull, Acting Keeper of the National Register, Heritage Conservation and Recreation Service, requested a determination of National Register Eligibility for the Energy Fuels parcel, a prehistoric and historic archeologic district in San Juan County, Utah.

The letter enclosed a completed National Register Nomination Form and photocopies of site survey forms with maps and sketches. The letter states, in part:

The parcel is most appropriately considered as an addition to the already-eligible White Mesa Archaeological District.

Overwhelmingly, the cultural resources are prehistoric Anasazi (ca. AD 450-1250) with only one Archaic (ca. 10,000-2,199 B.P) period and two historic sites (ca. 1907 to present), and Anglo reservoir dam and a Navajo sweat lodge, present. The 195 prehistoric sites in this parcel include habitation sites with kiva depressions, granaries, rock shelters, lithic scatters, rock art and a check dam. Most (172) are open sites and many have suffered severely from the elements and human disturbance. Some sites (23) in overhang or rock outcrop locales are better protected and afford a good idea of what many of the others would have been like before historic disturbance.

The Nomination Letter concluded:

Summarizing, the Energy Fuels parcel and the already eligible White Mesa Archeological District constitute a significant unit for analysis of Anasazi culture of the region. Inventory and testing to date reveals a near-identity of the two areas in prehistoric occupation, suggesting that they must be considered as a single unit which has more validity as an archeological distict than either alone.

August 21, 1980
The August 21, 1980, Letter from the BLM to the Keeper of the National Register regarding Energy Fuels Parcel Eligibility Determination, forwarded the notice of concurrence by the Utah Historic Preservation Officer on National Register eligibility of the Land Exchange parcel. The Energy Fuels Exchange Parcel would be an addition to the White Mesa Archeological District found eligible in 1979.

September 4, 1980
A September 19, 1980, BLM Memorandum, forwarded a September 4, 1980, Letter from the Moab BLM District Manager to the Advisory Council of Historic Preservation (ACHP). The September 4 BLM letter regarding the Energy Fuels Land Exchange provided additional information to the Advisory Council and requested National Register eligibility determination. The ACHP concurred with the BLM's request on September 15, 1980.

The September 4 BLM letter to the ACHP states, in part:

Accordingly, we have analyzed the cultural impacts of the proposed land exchange and have made Determination of No Adverse Effect (see Enclosure I for documentation). This finding is based on the inclusion of the enclosed cultural preservation covenant in the deed to be binding on Energy Fuels Nuclear Inc., its successors in interest (Enclosure 2). Since the Utah State Historical Preservation Office helped us construct the cultural preservation stipulation, we are confident of their concurrence and are seeking such documentation concurrently with this letter.
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Please note that the boundaries of the proposed exchange are not identical with the proosed addition to the White Mesa Archaeological District (eligible).

September 4, 1980
In a September 4, 1980, BLM Letter to the Utah State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) regarding Energy Fuels Exchange, No Adverse Effect Determination, the Monticello District Manager, requested formal concurrence in a finding of No Adverse Effect.

The letter states:

We request your formal concurrence in a finding of No Adverse Effect in the proposed exchange of approximately 2500 acress south of Blanding to Energy Fuels Nuclear, Inc. Documentation for this determination is provided herein (Enclosure 1).

Since Mr. James L. Dykman of your staff helped construct the cultural preservation stipulation (Enclosure 2) to be included in the deed, we are confident of your basic agreement in this matter. However, should you have any suggestions to improve the wording or other aspects, please feel free to provide them.

Please note that the 148 sites included in the exchange are only part of the proposed addition to the National Register archaeological district which had 194 sites (see Enclosure 2, Appendix B).

September 11, 1980
The September 11, 1980, Letter from the Acting Keeper of the National Register, Heritage Conservation and Recreation Service, to the BLM acknowledged the receipt of the letter requesting a determination of eligibility. The letter urged the the information from the HCRS be integrated in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis.

Note: The NEPA analysis associated with the Land Exchange has not been made publicly available by the BLM.

September 11, 1980
According to the National Register of Historic Places, "On September 11, 1980, the entire Energy Fuels Exchange Parcel (addition to the White Mesa Archeological District) was found eligible for the National Register by the Keeper."

September 19, 1980
The September 19, 1980, Letter from the Utah State Historic Preservation Officer to the BLM in response to the request for review stated "that if the stated procedures, projects or regulations are followed as outlined, there will be no known efect upon any potential or listed National Register historic, archeological, of cultural site."

July 12, 1985
The July 12, 1985, BLM Memoranum from the Deputy State Director for Operations to the Regional Solicitor, Intermountain Region, regarding Request for Final Title Opinion, Energy Fuels, LTD, Private Land Exchange, requested a final opinion on the Land Exchange. The Memo states: "Please note that the draft patent contains a stipulation for the protection of Cultural Resources on the selected land."

August 26, 1985
On August 26, 1985, Energy Fuels Ltd. and the BLM executed the Energy Fuels - BLM Land Exchange, Cultural Resource Easement Agreement, which was recorded with San Juan County, Utah, deeds.

October 10, 1985
The Deed transferrig the BLM lands in Township 37, South Range 22 East and Township 38 South, Range 22 East, containing 2, 591.42 acres, .to Energy Fuels Ltd. was signed by the BLM on October 10, 1985. The Deed for Patent Number 43-85-0028, was recorded by the San Juan County Recorder on November 11, 1985. The Deed included the statement, under EXCEPTING AND RESERVING TO THE UNITED STATES, at 4.:

An easement for exclusinve use and control of all cultural sites on and in the lands described above, along with the right of ingress and egress to the sites; until such time as all or part of the cultural sites are excavated or otherwise cleared in accordance with requirements of the Cultural Resources Agreement dated August 26, 1985, by and between Energy Fuels, Ltd. and United States of America. Upon ecavation or clearance, the Bureau of Land Management shall execute disclaimers of interest as to those rights hereby reserved with respect to those cultural sites excavated or cleared.

The same stipulation was included in the Special Warranty Deed from Energy Fuels, Ltd., to UMETCO Minerals Corporation, December 2, 1985, for the same parcel.

The same stipulation was included in the Special Warranty Deed from UMETCO Minerals Corporation to Energy Fuels, Ltd., June 27, 1994, for the same parcel.

July 28, 1988
On July 28, 1988, Umetco Minerals submitted an Amendment Request for an amendment to NRC White Mesa Mill License, Docket No. 40-8681. The requests states: "License Condition (LC) 15 sets forth guidelines for archeological sites that may be affected by mill operations or construction. Attachment No. 2 referenced in LC 15 should reflect the archeological work that has been accomplished at the White Mesa Mill. Accordingly, Umetco proposes that the following attachment be substituted for Attachment No. 2 of the license.”

Attachment No. 2 is entitled “Archaeological Sites Related to the White Mesa Project.” None of the archaeological sites listed in Attachment 2, and incorporated into the White Mesa Mill License, are those included in the lands that were transferred from the BLM to Energy Fuels, Ltd., in 1985 and found Eligible for inclusion in the National Register as part of the White Mesa Archaeological District in September 1980.


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Updated May 9, 2022


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