August 2, 2009
SALT LAKE CITY — Two environmental groups have asked federal land managers to reconsider their approval of Utah's first new uranium mine in three decades.
The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and Uranium Watch oppose the Daneros Mine, located about 120 miles from Natural Bridges National Monument in southeastern Utah.
The groups also want the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to stop Australia-based White Canyon Uranium from mining there until the agency's Utah director, Selma Sierra, determines whether the mine's environmental impact was sufficiently studied.
"There are a lot of issues associated with uranium mining that were not adequately assessed before the permits were issued," Liz Thomas, a lawyer for SUWA, told the Salt Lake Tribune.
She issued a nearly 50-page critique of the BLM's analysis. Besides possible harm to air and water, she said, the cumulative impacts of the Daneros Mine and other nearby uranium operations should be considered.
Sarah Fields, director of Moab-based Uranium Watch, said the project needs more thorough reviews of its potential impacts on water and air.
BLM spokeswoman Megan Crandall said her agency has agreed to review the request for a stay.
She said there is no deadline for the BLM to respond to the groups' requests, although it generally tries to provide an answer within 30 days.
"It's more important to conduct the review in as thorough a manner as possible to ensure we cover the entire breadth of issues raised," Crandall said.
The BLM issued a "finding of no significant impact" when it released its final decision on the permit in May.
Peter Batten, managing director of White Canyon, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
White Canyon in May said it would begin developing the site immediately and planned ore shipments in September.
Uranium activity in the Four Corners has eased in recent months with a decline in uranium prices from $135 per pound two years ago to about $47 a pound last month.
Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.sltrib.com