Colorado lawmakers introduce bill requiring in situ uranium miners to prove aquifers will be restored to pre-mining conditions
Companion legislation would increase local government control over mining projects and make exploratory drilling activities subject to open records laws
Posted January 16, 2008
For current information on HB-1161, go here: HB-1161 & HB-1165
Fort Collins Coloradoan supports HB-1161 - Editorial board endorses provisions to protect water quality - Posted February 22, 2008
HB-1161 passes out of ag committee on 11-2 vote - Amended groundwater protection bill moves on to appropriations committee - Posted February 21, 2008
Greeley Tribune endorses HB-1161 and HB-1165 - Newspaper cites Summitville Superfund site and groundwater contamination in Texas - Posted February 15, 2008
NEWS STORIES updated 2/5/08
EDITORIAL COMMENTS updated 1/30/08
A bipartisan group of Colorado legislators introduced two bills to update mining laws in response to concerns of northern Colorado citizens regarding Powertech Uranium Corp.'s plans to mine uranium near Fort Collins. As introduced, the bills would do the following:
(Note: These are my interpretations of the bills' provisions. Please read the actual text of the bills - links are below.)
House Bill 08-1161 (as introduced)
- Define any uranium mining project as a "designated mining operation" (DMO), requiring increased regulation and oversight. Under current laws, Powertech's proposed mines would not be DMOs unless they utilized toxic or acidic chemicals in the mining process.
- Require as a condition of permit issuance that a prospective in situ leach (ISL) mining operator submit a plan for initial site characterization (baseline conditions) and ongoing monitoring of affected land, surface water, and groundwater, and that the state would select a third-party contractor to prepare the plan, do the baseline studies, and conduct the ongoing environmental monitoring. Current statutes call for the mine operator to do the baseline studies and ongoing monitoring.
- Require prospective ISL mine operators to notify all landowners within three miles of the affected mining area.
- Require mine reclamation plans to include reclamation of affected surface and ground waters, not just affected land.
- Require the monitoring plan prepared by the third-party contractor to adequately address the detection of "excursions", or leaks, of process chemicals or mobilized metals into surrounding portions of an aquifer during mining operations.
- Require the plan prepared by the third-party contractor to evaluate the mine operator's plans for postmining reclamation and groundwater restoration plans.
- Make all information related to the design and operation of the baseline characterization and monitoring plans subject to public inspection under state open records statutes. Currently, this information is proprietary and controlled by the mine operator, with the exception of any information submitted with permit applications.
- Require the commencement of groundwater restoration immediately upon the cessation (temporary or permanent) of ISL mining production.
- Allow the state to deny a mining reclamation permit based on the uncertainty about the feasibility of reclamation or if a permit applicant fails to demonstrate that reclamation can and will be accomplished.
- Require that the state deny a permit for ISL mining unless the applicant submits "substantial evidence" of at least five ISL mining operations that have operated for at least five years, that have ceased operations for at least five years, and that did not result in any leakage of any process chemicals, radionuclides, or heavy metals, or other constituents into any groundwater outside of the intended mining zone.
- Require that all ISL uranium operations restore affected groundwater to its premining quality for all constituents.
- Allow state regulators to deny a mining permit if the existing or reasonably foreseeable potential future uses for any potentially affected groundwater includes domestic or agricultural uses.
- Allow state regulators to deny a mining permit if the applicant or any affiliate, officer, or director of the applicant has previously violated state mining reclamation laws or the mining reclamation laws of any other state, the federal government, or any foreign jurisdiction.
- Require any person engaged in an ISL mine operation to notify state regulators within 24 hours of detecting any excursion or leak of process chemicals or mobilized minerals into aquifers surrounding the mining zone.
House Bill 08-1165 (as introduced)
- Expand the Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Board (CMLRB) to include the Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (or his/her designee), and a member representing local government interests.
- Expand the duties of the CMLRB to take human health and environmental risks into consideration in the permitting process.
- Give the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment an opportunity to provide comments during the CMLRB's decision-making process on permit applications.
- Require the CMLRB to regulate mining operations so as to prevent and mitigate significant adverse environmental impacts an any air, water, soil, or biological resource, and protect public health, safety, and welfare.
- Recognize the authority of any city, town, county, or other political subdivision to condition or prohibit any mining activity, operation, or process.
- Require any construction material (sand or gravel) mining operations that result in the development or extraction of any other mineral (uranium, etc.) to be regulated under the same regulations as mineral mining operations.
- Require all information submitted to the CMLRB for an exploration permit to be subject to state open records laws, except for information relating to the location, size, or nature of ore deposits.
- Increase the time period for filing written comments on a mining permit application from 20 to 45 days after the date of last publication of notice.
- Allow the filing of an appeal with the District Court within 60 days after the CMLRB's final action on a permit application.
- Require the CMLRB to refer all permit applications for Designated Mining Operations to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment for recommendations concerning human health and environmental risks, and attach appropriate conditions to permits if necessary to protect human health or the environment.
- Prevent a foreign company from meeting the financial warranty requirements by simply demonstrating a sufficiently high credit rating, net worth, operating profitability, and financial ratios.
- Require financial warranty amounts be based on reasonably predicted future reclamation costs as of the time the reclamation is anticipated to occur, rather than current costs.
- Authorize an emergency response to an in situ leach mine operator's failure or refusal to respond to the CMLRB's order requiring corrective action following an excursion or other event that would endanger public health or the environment.
House Bill 08-1161 (as introduced) CONCERNING AN INCREASE IN THE REGULATORY AUTHORITY OF THE MINED LAND RECLAMATION BOARD OVER MINING, AND, IN CONNECTION THEREWITH, ENSURING THE PROTECTION OF GROUND WATER AND PUBLIC HEALTH.
Kefalas and Fischer, Butcher, Carroll M., Frangas, Gagliardi, Green, Levy, McFadyen, McKinley, Primavera, Riesberg, Solano, Soper, and Weissmann
Johnson, and Bacon
Fischer and Kefalas, Butcher, Frangas, Levy, Looper, McFadyen, and Solano
Shaffer, and Bacon
Colorado General Assembly website
County Commissioners Want ‘Veil of Secrecy’ Removed
for Uranium Mining -
Telluride Watch - February 11, 2008 NEW
Mining officials meet with local reps
Can the Energy and Recreation Industries Find Common
Telluride Watch - February 1, 2008 NEW
Bill Exerts Local Authority Over Mining -
Telluride Watch - January 28, 2008
Legislators Working to Tighten State, Federal Mining Regulations - K.C. Mason
Lawmakers want strict limits on uranium leach mining - Steven Paulson
Lawmakers introduce mining legislation - State legislators aim to tighten regulations - Jason Kosena
Mine control - Lawmakers try to protect underground water sources from uranium contamination - Pamela Dickman
Water-quality plans for mines offered - Officials in both parties back rules for uranium sites - John Ingold
Lawmakers seek to curb uranium mine pollution - Charles Ashby
Lawmakers propose uranium mining bills
Northern Colorado Business Report - January 17, 2008
Uranium Mining Whets Thirst to Preserve Drinking Water - Jim Spencer
Hang on to your hats, the mining boom is back!
Rebuttal to Rocky Mountain News house editorial "Mining Over and Out" - Howard Mike Williams
Mining, over and out - (anonymous members of the editorial board)
Give locals say-so on mining operations - Jackie Adolph
Should we bear the risks of uranium mining? - John S. Dixon
Responsible Uranium Mining - Teresa Foster