September 10, 2009

Outdoor recreation mecca vs. uranium mine

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Colorado as an outdoor recreation mecca? Colorado as the capital of the global uranium industry? Take your pick, but you can’t have both, seems to be the sentiment in the Paradox Valley area near the Utah border. Montrose County commissioners there have delayed a decision on a controversial uranium mill proposal, but deep community divisions remain, writes David O. Williams in the Colorado Independent.

The mill – capable of producing enough fuel rods to power a city bigger than Denver – has run into opposition from people who live in Telluride and Ridgway, Williams writes, who argue that the mill would damage the region’s reputation as an international outdoor tourism destination. But the fuel company, Energy Fuels Inc., says it’s possible to avoid past mistakes and operate in a way that makes tourism and uranium mining and processing compatible. Many of those who live nearby are in favor of the jobs – including 282 mining jobs and 256 support jobs –  the mill would create, and bristle at the invasion of Coloradoans they view as outsiders.

One local, however, speaks for those against the mill.

Mark Goldfogel, owner of small farm in Paradox and a technology company in Telluride, urged the commissioners to reject the special-use permit allowing for industry in an area zoned agricultural. His argument was based purely on economics.

“If the mill is allowed, the stigma of a uranium mill in Paradox Valley will make agriculture and tourism extremely difficult,” Goldfogel said. “There is no market for organic produce grown down the road from a uranium mill. There is no market for my farm if you allow this mill.”

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