Uranium boom sweeps region

A second uranium boom appears to be hitting the Four Corners region. Another major mine in southeast Utah is set to reopen courtesy of record high prices for the radioactive ore.  

This week, International Uranium Corp. of Vancouver told the Salt Lake Tribune that it intends to begin reopening mines, including one on Henry Mountain just west of Blanding, Utah.

“We’ve been considering reopening our mines for a couple of years now,” Ron Hochstein, president of International Uranium, told the paper. “And with uranium now trading around $43 a pound – the highest it’s ever been – the economics are right for us to start producing again.”

In addition to the Henry Mountain site, International Uranium has claims on Utah’s Colorado Plateau and the Arizona Strip between the Grand Canyon and Utah’s border.   

Ore from the mines will be transported to the White Mesa mill, also near Blanding, where processing will begin late next year.

International Uranium’s return to local mining is only the latest evidence of the regional boom. In the summer of 2004, The Cotter Corp., a subsidiary of General Atomics, reopened six uranium mines in the region. Five are north of Dove Creek in the Paradox Valley and another is near the old Uravan townsite, which was abandoned because of high radiation levels.

Like the Henry Mountain mine, a spike in the price of uranium drove the reopenings, and the spike is tied in part to consumer demand for alternative power sources. Another factor is a diminishing uranium reserve worldwide. The per-pound price of uranium has quadrupled in the last three years.

Currently, eight to 10 trucks per day are traveling a 300-mile route from the mines to a mill in Cañon City. From Paradox and Uravan, they travel northeast through Naturita and Norwood, come close to Telluride, pass through Ridgway and Montrose, and then take U.S. Highway 50 through Gunnison over Monarch Pass and on to Cañon City.  



Ewing Mesa contract terminated

A transaction that would have dramatically affected Durango’s future has fallen through. Oakridge Energy Inc. announced last week that its plans to sell the 1,965-acre Ewing Mesa, located just southeast of downtown Durango, have fallen through.

Ewing Mesa is located immediately above Highway 3 and adjacent to both the City of Durango and the Horse Gulch trail system. As many as 3,000 homes have been discussed for the property. Early in 2004, the Durango City Council approved the ambitious Ewing Mesa Plan, which called for a New Urbanism mix of residences, businesses, schools and parks. However, Oakridge, the company responsible for the plan, listed the property for sale shortly thereafter.

Approximately two months ago, Denali Partners LLC, a private investment firm based in Minneapolis, entered into a contract to purchase Ewing Mesa from Oakridge for a price of $40 million. The company deposited $2 million in earnest money and began a 60-day inspection.

Last Friday, Oakridge announced that the contract had been terminated for unspecified reasons. Denali sent Oakridge written notice of its election to terminate on June 12 and the initial $2 million was returned.

Headquartered in Wichita Falls, Texas, Oakridge is also engaged in the exploration, development, production and sale of oil and gas primarily in Texas. Denali Partners LLC refused comment on its decision to end the contract.


Fire managers look to the public

With continuing hot, dry and windy weather in the forecast, San Juan Public Lands is looking to the public to help prevent a catastrophic wildfire in the region. The agencies are asking local residents to heed fire restrictions and be extra careful with fire in Southwest Colorado. The call comes after numerous abandoned campfires were extinguished by firefighters in the past week.

“From Cortez to Durango and east to Pagosa Springs, we’ve found a number of abandoned campfires,” said Mark Lauer, Fire Management Officer. “With the dry, windy weather we’re having, it’s just a matter of time before an illegal campfire takes off.”

Lauer offered the reminder that fire restrictions went into effect on June 2, and campfires are only allowed in developed campgrounds. In addition, smoking is limited to vehicles, buildings or 3-foot wide areas cleared of vegetation; chainsaws and other internal-combustion engines must have spark arresters; torches with an open flame may not be used; and the use of explosives is prohibited. The restrictions cover all San Juan public lands in the vicinity of Durango, outside of the South San Juan and Weminuche wilderness areas.


Burglar falls short of grand prize

A Four Corners man’s attempt to hit the jackpot at any cost fell short. Seven hundred lottery tickets were stolen from an area business May 14, and local police officers found the high-stakes gambler last week when he tried to redeem a winning ticket.

Early on the morning of May 15, a Durango Police Department officer discovered a broken window at the Exxon Tempo Mini-Mart, west of Durango on U.S. Highway 160. Further investigation revealed that the business had been burglarized.

After a search of the store, the officer noticed a display case Colorado Lottery scratch tickets was missing. The store’s surveillance video showed a white male with a slight to medium build making off with the loot. The stolen tickets included: 7-11-21, Dinero Calienta, Fast Cash, Mucho Dinero, Super Crossword and Wild 7s. The stolen tickets were reported to the Criminal Investigation Division of the Colorado Lottery.

On June 11, Stephen James Barkey, a 28-year-old Durango resident, was arrested on charges Second Degree Burglary after he attempted to collect winnings from the tickets. Barkey allegedly redeemed winnings at several businesses throughout Durango before being nabbed by detectives. He could face up to six years in prison if convicted.


Junction Creek Campground reopens

The Junction Creek Campground, which has been closed for remodeling for the past two summers, has reopened. The popular San Juan National Forest campground is located about five miles west of Durango.

Renovations include a new water system and new, fully accessible toilets. Two of the existing campground loops have also been remodeled to offer more campsites and facilities. Some new campsites are double sites, and some offer electricity for an additional cost. There also is a new day-use-only area that features two group sites, a volleyball court and horseshoe pits, as well as family picnic sites.

Two new large group picnic sites can also be reserved. This group picnic site has water and electricity and includes a pavilion with serving tables, large grills and a group-size fire ring.

– compiled by Will Sands



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