Durango Telegraph - The price of Piñon Ridge
The price of Piñon Ridge

The Piñon Ridge Uranium Mill is headed into the home stretch, and the State of Colorado is required to approve or deny the proposed mill sometime prior to Jan. 17. However, the Sheep Mountain Alliance, a leading opponent of the mill, has fired a final shot at Piñon Ridge in the form of a socio-economic study of the mill’s impacts.

Energy Fuels Inc., a Toronto-based uranium and vanadium mining company, hopes to site the mill in the middle of Western

Colorado’s uranium belt on 1,000 acres of privately owned land in Paradox Valley, not far from the Dolores River. The facility would be the nation’s first in a quarter century and located not far from the only other operating uranium mill in the country, the White Mesa Mill in Blanding.

A new study of the mill, commissioned by the Sheep Mountain Alliance, reveals that Piñon Ridge could be a risky proposition for the Western Slope. Thomas Power, a University of Montana economics profes

sor, authored the socio-economic report and notes that if the mill is approved and built, it will jeopardize tourism and agriculture all over Southwest Colorado.

“This report reveals the economic risks from the mill could be substantial, while the economic jolt it offers will be quite modest,” Power said. “As state regulators weigh whether to approve this new mill, they must take into account the risks local communities may face.”

The study goes on to note that total new

employment from the mill, including multipliers, would be a scant 116 jobs. It also suggests an alternative, saying that clean-up of abandoned uranium mines and mills in the Dolores River watershed could create approximately 111 jobs.

It concludes by noting that American taxpayers have footed the clean-up bill and remediated seven abandoned uranium mills in Western Colorado since the 1980s at a cost of more than $950 million.

– Will Sands