Published on Thursday Sept 16 2010
The Fremont County Commissioners on Tuesday tabled an application by Black Range Minerals to expand its area of exploration in the Tallahassee Creek area.
The public hearing on the conditional use permit was continued to the Sept. 28 meeting at which time the commissioners will attempt to have the independent water expert hired by the county to answer questions from the public and officials. The board will accept written public comments through Sept. 22, and public comments will be accepted at the meeting but only if it relates to the water expert’s findings.
Mike Haynes, managing director of Black Range Minerals, said the company plans to expand its exploration of uranium deposits in the area to include the Hansen ore deposit beneath the South T-Bar Ranch development.
Haynes said the permit would not increase the amount of work being done in the area. The original 2008 permit allows 800 exploration holes to be drilled on 8,169 acres during an eight-year period. That would not change under the new permit, Haynes said. The application would change to add 2,210 acres to the permitted area for a total of 10,379.
“The Hansen deposit is the best understood of the deposits in the district,” Haynes said. “It is certainly a significant uranium deposit.”
The company has been in negotiations to acquire the mineral rights of the deposit.
The new parcel is immediately adjacent to the original permit area, which is part of the reason the current application is to amend the original.
He said surface water and domestic well monitoring has been going on since 2008, and they would like to make some changes to that process, including adding wells and reducing domestic monitoring to once per year instead of twice. They also are seeking access to CR 21.
“I see them as relatively minor items,” Haynes said. “We have been in compliance. We are not seeking to undertake more work.”
The commissioners had 21 people request time to speak on the issue. Most opposed the permit and expressed concerns about contamination in the area’s water.
“They’ve never drilled a single monitoring well to this date,” said Michael Meyrick. “They didn’t do it, and they consciously didn’t do it.”
Catherine Meyrick provided commissioners with endorsements from 60 local business owners opposing the permit.
“These are people who provide real jobs in this county,” she said. “We have valid concerns that continued contamination of our streams is foreseeable.”
“You are elected officials by us, we the people,” Lyn Minasi said. “What price has Black Range Minerals promised this county for contamination and the people’s health? What price is this county going to have to pay when all is said and done and they walk away?”
Ed Franz said if a terrorist were to dump radioactive material into the creeks, they would get a “reservation at Supermax.”
“There should be consequences for those that contaminate,” he said. “I foresee a likely outcome of continued contamination.”
Nancy Seger expressed disappointment with the transparency of the process that has occurred thus far with the project.
“You should consider the facts you hear today,” Seger said. “Black Range Minerals is not being held accountable, they have now established that they don’t care to follow what you have put into their conditions, nor do they have any respect for you or the citizens of Fremont County.”
Rick Van Leeuwen opposed permitting BRM to use CR 21 to transport rigs onto the site, saying the road is too narrow.
John Suleiman said he opposes the amendment; however, if it is passed, he requested the company be required to build fences around the mud pits that result from the drilling of exploration holes.
Virgil Burke said the contamination in his well has increased nearly three times since company began exploratory drilling.
Lee Alter said he believed the company should have to submit a separate permit request for the Hansen deposit because it is a “completely separate activity.”
“We have to take our time with something like this,” Jim Barton said. “I believe it is premature and irresponsible. There are far-reaching consequences to these decisions. When they’re made on short notice they’re wrong.”
Kay Hawklee said she opposes changes to the water monitoring plans that make them less restrictive.
Diane Taylor said 95 percent of the residents of the South T-Bar area support the permit, pointing out that water wells are drilled through the same rock formations, soils and aquifers as the exploration holes.
“You’re not going to stop contamination by stopping the mining,” she said. “I urge you to approve this.”
Haynes thanked everyone who made comments because the company appreciates feedback on its operations. He also addressed many of the concerns expressed by the public as did hydrologist Susan Wyman.
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