Powertech refuses to lift veil of secrecy over exploratory drilling
State regulators hold up approval of June 24 NOI, request that more details be made public; Powertech news release fails to mention dispute with state over confidentiality
Posted August 16, 2008
Powertech Uranium Corp. continues to fight against transparency and full public disclosure of its drilling activities in northern Colorado.
Not only has the Canadian company been conducting exploratory drilling for the last two weeks without releasing any information whatsoever, it is also attempting to withhold details of future planned drilling. And on Tuesday, Powertech issued a news release to investors that didn't mention a related disagreement with Colorado mining regulators over the confidentiality of this information.
The current drilling started on July 30 near the intersection of Weld County Roads 19 and 106. No announcement was made by Powertech, and the drillers and a Powertech employee on site were unable to provide evidence that the drilling was approved by state mining regulators. The borehole is being drilled in the vicinity of an identified uranium orebody, and is located near at least four domestic water wells.
On Friday, August 8, an employee of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources indicated in an email to State Representative Randy Fischer that the drilling was approved under Powertech's 2007 Notice of Intent to Conduct Prospecting Operations (NOI). This NOI was approved in mid-2007. On December 10, 2007, Powertech issued a news release stating the drilling/coring program approved under the 2007 NOI was completed a few months earlier:
POWERTECH URANIUM CORP. ("Powertech" or the "Company") is pleased to announce that it has completed field activities and has received chemical analyses from its drilling and coring program on the Centennial Project in Weld County, Colorado. This program was completed in the fall of 2007 and was authorized under a permit from the Colorado Department of Natural Resources' Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety (DRMS).
If the drilling program was completed nearly a year ago, how could be they drilling now under the same 2007 NOI? Apparently, the "completed" drilling program was not completed after all and the 12/10/07 news release was inaccurate.
Other issues surround the 2007 NOI. The August 8 email includes the statement by a Colorado mining regulator that "Last year, some minor problems were identified, all of which were corrected." He refers to an inspection of Powertech's drilling operation. He doesn't elaborate on the "minor problems" he observed, and we may never know the extent of the problems since the inspection reports are confidential.
NOIs submitted after June 2, 2008 are subject to the increased public disclosure requirements of the recently enacted Senate Bill 228. Earlier NOIs are completely confidential at the discretion of the company. However, Powertech can legally waive confidentiality and disclose any and all information related to its 2007 NOI. Last year, local landowners submitted a written request to Powertech to waive confidentiality but Powertech refused.
State officials have also urged Powertech to release information on the 2007 drilling. In fact, the CDNR/DRMS employee assigned to the Powertech project claims that "Powertech has indicated a willingness to release certain information from the confines of pre-SB-228 confidentiality, but has yet to follow through on those indications." Powertech continues to keep potentially affected well owners in the dark regarding its drilling in the Laramie-Fox Hills Aquifer.
On June 24, Powertech submitted a new NOI to the state for ten boreholes. Vice President Richard Blubaugh mentioned in a cover letter that Powertech had "targeted July 15 2008 for the initiation of these activities." A month later, the NOI is still not approved.
A portion of the NOI was deemed non-confidential in accordance with SB-228. However, critical details such as borehole locations, depths, and well competion and abandonment methods were labeled confidential by Powertech. It is these details that nearby well owners are concerned with because of the potential for contamination of their domestic and agricultural wells.
State mining regulators have taken the position that the well completion and abandonment details should be a matter of public record. They consider the NOI to be incomplete, and as of August 8 had not resolved the dispute with Powertech. Representative Fischer is also pushing for public release of this information. A check of the DRMS website today shows the NOI is apparently still unapproved.
On August 12, Powertech issued a news release regarding the new NOI. Missing was any reference to the dispute with the state over confidentiality. This is consistent with Powertech's history of deliberately avoiding anything negative in its public communications.