There is a saying that opportunity doesn’t beat the door down, it only knocks quietly. So it seems to be with uranium.  The American uranium extraction business took a big hit when the Three Mile Island accident happened in the late 1970’s. Nuclear power growth was tabled and only recently has it shown signs of recovery. 

With few exceptions, the rebound of the North American nuclear fuel business is largely invisible, apparent only if you go digging for signs.  One exception is happening in north central Colorado, near the town of Nunn.  A Canadian company, Powertech Uranium Corp., has acquired mineral rights to a sizeable parcel of land northeast of Ft Collins along the eastern side of I-25. It is called the Centennial Project and circumscribes an ore body estimated to hold 5.1 to 9.6 million pounds of U3O8, according to a technical report posted in the public domain at the Powertech website. The extent of U3O8 recovery would depend on the percent cutoff level of acceptable ore. The ore body is a discontinuous series of subsurface deposits with the top of the uranium mineralization at ca 82 feet below the surface. 

According to the report by Gorski and Voss, the average grade of the ore is 0.094 % and the average thickness of the vein is 8.8 ft (Table 1, latest estimate). Powertech has mentioned the possibility of in-situ extraction with bicarbonate leach as the means of removal of the mineral value rather than underground mining.

Naturally, the locals have not warmed up to the news that there might be a uranium mining operation in the area. A local group, Coloradoans Agains Resource Destruction (CARD), has put up a website (NunnGlow) and are vigorously lobbying against the development. In particular, the matter of leaching has brought a large negative sentiment to the forefront and Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO) has intervened with the NRC to allow a more lengthy public comment period in the permitting process. Locals are rightfully concerned about their aquifer and are entitled to some straight talk about the matter.

While I am generally in favor of uranium mining, I have to agree with NunnGlow in regard to contamination of the aquifer by this in-situ leaching process. Powertech needs to offer some compelling evidence that the aquifer won’t be harmed by their leaching operations.