The promise of new jobs brought out supporters in force this week for a public hearing on the proposed Piñon Ridge uranium mill proposal in western Montrose County.
At the end of a five-hour meeting Tuesday night in Nucla, the county Planning Commission decided to delay a decision on the matter until after it can hold a second public meeting June 10 at 6 p.m. in Montrose.
However, the county’s West End Planning Advisory Committee voted Tuesday unanimously in support of the proposal. The county’s planning staff also has recommended approval.
Energy Fuels Resources Corp. is seeking to process locally mined uranium and vanadium ore on 880 acres off Colorado Highway 90 about 12 miles west of Naturita and seven miles east of Bedrock.
The county said in a news release approximately 250 people attended Tuesday night’s meeting in the Nucla High School gym, and the majority of residents living in the county’s west end supported the mill. Opponents included a few Montrose County residents, and mostly residents from neighboring San Miguel County and Moab, Utah, the county said.
Energy Fuels says the mill would employ up to 85 people and process about 500 tons of ore per day.
“The overall economic impact seems to be the theme from supporters,” said the company’s chief operating officer, Stephen Antony.
He called the advisory committee’s endorsement “a first step in a long trail that will thoroughly evaluate all of the issues involved with the facility.”
Among those opposing the mill is Julie Schneider, whose family owns a farm about 15 miles from the proposed site. She said concern about the proposal put an end to a potential sale of the farm.
“When the mill was announced the buyers said that was a deal-breaker and walked away from the sale,” Schneider said.
She said she worries the mill could expose the public to radioactive materials and toxic chemicals, and she thinks the county should promote stable jobs rather than ones she considers unsafe and subject to booms and busts.
Antony said Energy Fuels can run a safe operation, and it will be up to the state to consider health and environmental issues surrounding the project.
The permit application and staff reports on the application are available at www.montrosecounty.net/landuse/uranium_mill_sup_information or at the county Planning & Development Department at 317 S. Second St. in Montrose.