Saturday, August 03, 2013

Discovery of more ore will extend life of northern Arizona uranium mine

A newsletter from Mohave County Supervisor Buster Johnson, says the Arizona #1 uranium mine [right, credit Energy Fuels Resources] has found more ore which triggered getting new EPA permits, but those have been approved now.  The following is excerpted from the newsletter:

Lake Havasu City, AZ –The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently approved an application submitted by Energy Fuels Resources, the operators of the Arizona 1 Uranium Mine, located near the Arizona Strip in Mohave County.  “I would like to commend the EPA for taking a look at the concerns regarding the permitting of the Arizona 1 Uranium Mine, and coming to the conclusion that the mine was safe to continue production,” Supervisor Buster Johnson said.

The Arizona 1 Uranium project is one of four mines under full or partial development in the Arizona Strip that was not included in a federal ban in 2012 by the Department of the Interior declaring a “withdrawal” of 1 million acres of lands from new mining claims.  The mine had been inactive from 1992 to 2009 causing some concerns and confusion on if new permitting was required through the EPA in order for them to restart production.  

In 2008, then owner Denison Mines, Inc., submitted a letter to the EPA regarding its intention to reactivate the Arizona 1 mine.  They had originally thought the mine was only going to produce 70,000 tons of uranium deposit.  Under current EPA standards, mines less than 100,000 tons are exempt from being required to obtain a permit.  In 2009, Denison obtained their air quality permit from the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, and shortly after began production on the Arizona 1 Mine.

The EPA alleged that the Arizona 1 Mine was operating illegally because Denison had restarted mining without obtaining prior and full permission from them.  In 2012, Energy Fuels acquired all of Denison Mines production assets and mining operations in the United States.  Upon review they discovered that the Arizona 1 mine had more ore at depth which would require obtaining the EPA permits.

With the discovery of more ore and the approval from the EPA to mine over 100,000 tons, Energy Fuels anticipates the Arizona 1 Mine to be in production longer than they had originally anticipated.  “The continued operation of the Arizona 1 Uranium Mine is great news for Mohave County.  This will keep uranium mining production going in Mohave County for at least 2 more years while we work towards lifting the Department of Interior’s ban on new mining claims near the Arizona Strip,” Supervisor Johnson said.

The permit Energy Fuels obtained concludes the fact that the mine is ventilated for the safety of the workers, a process that releases radon gas to the environment.  Based on a thorough review of data and supplemental modeling, EPA has determined that the public would not be exposed to levels of radon that would impact public health. The levels of radon released from the mine would be much lower than 10millirem/year, the allowable limit under the Clean Air Act.

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