WEST END – Uranium exploration, mine development and reclamation will be permitted to continue on 31 lease tracts of land in West End for the next 10 years, with final required reclamation, under the terms of a long-awaited Record of Decision on the Department of Energy’s Uranium Leasing Program, published in the Federal Register on Monday, May 12.
Under the Uranium Leasing Program, the DOE Office of Legacy Management manages 31 tracts of land in Western Colorado’s Uravan Mineral Belt leased to private entities for uranium and vanadium mining. The tracts encompass approximately 25,000 acres of land; 18 of the tracts are in Montrose County, 11 in San Miguel County and two in Mesa County; one of those tracts is split between Montrose and San Miguel counties. There are no current active mining operations on any lease tracts.
There have been three previous leasing periods on the tracts since the program was established in 1948. In preparing the Uranium Leasing Program Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement upon which its Record of Decision was based, the DOE analyzed potential site-specific and cumulative environmental impacts, and evaluated five alternatives ranging from cancellation to continuing for the remainder of the 10-year lease period that started in 2008.
During the evaluation process, DOE conducted a 109-day public comment period, held four public meetings in southwestern Colorado, and considered all public comments on the PEIS in preparing the decision.
Five companies hold leases on the land in question. According to a May 12 release from the DOE, the Department will evaluate the 31 lease tracts on a case-by-case basis, and the leases will be modified as needed in the implementation of this decision.
The process was prompted by a U.S. District judge’s decision to suspend the Department of Energy’s Uranium Leasing Program in 2011 for not conducting a full Environmental Impact Statement analysis for the program back in 2008.
The Department will implement the Record of Decision only after the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado has dissolved the injunction issued on October 18, 2011, which froze lease activities at these tracts until this evaluation process was completed.
The Record of Decision and final environmental impact statement can be found on the DOE Legacy Management website at http://energy.gov/lm/office-legacy-management, or on the DOE National Environmental Policy Act website at www.energy.gov/nepa.