The Telluride-based Sheep Mountain Alliance is challenging the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment's approval of a permit for the Pinon Ridge Uranium Mill, which would be located in the high desert in the remote southwestern part of the state, the Los Angeles Times reported this week.
Amid a revitalization of the nuclear fuels industry, Energy Fuels Inc., the Canadian company that wants to open the new mill, says the processed uranium mainly would be shipped to fast-growing Asian countries.
State regulators said all appropriate procedures were followed in approving the permit, but the lawsuit, filed Feb. 4 in state court, claims the state did not hold enough public hearings and violated a state law prohibiting uranium mills in areas with high levels of heavy metals in their water.
The suit also says the state did not require the mill's owner to set aside enough money for mitigation, noting prior groundwater contamination in Colorado mills has cost up to $500 million to clean up whereas Energy Fuels is only required to set aside $11 million.
"If state regulators ignore basic federal and state law to permit this mill, how can we ever trust them to monitor the mill once it's in production?" Linda Miller, one of Sheep Mountain's board members, asked.
State regulators had no comment on the lawsuit, the Times said.