The Manti-La Sal National Forest in the US is assessing the planned expansion of La Sal Mines Complex, owned by Energy Fuels Resources, following formal objections and claims of environmental violations from Uranium Watch and other conservation groups.
The La Sal Mines is a complex of four old uranium mines located in La Sal, Utah.
Uranium Watch claimed that the along with four other conservation groups cited violations of the National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act and other laws and regulations and objected to the Forest Service’s draft approval of the plan.
In a press release, the environmental groups alleged that the expansion had been halted. However, this was later denied in a statement by Energy Fuels Resources.
These groups have claimed that as part of the large-scale expansion, 3,800 new exploration holes will be drilled and an estimated 50 springs would be dewatered, in addition to creating surface disturbance of more than 200 acres.
They claimed that the mining will pose risks for wildlife and people, as it is expected to threaten radiological and heavy metal pollution of groundwater, soil, and air.
Uranium Watch programme director Sarah Fields said: "The continued operation of the La Sal Mines Complex will cause increasing emissions of radon gas, a radioactive hazardous air pollutant, into the community.
"The USFS cannot claim that radon emissions, only a quarter-mile from the La Sal Elementary School, are safe."
Western Mining Action Project attorney Roger Flynn said: "Federal law requires that significant threats to human health and the environment posed by uranium mining be very carefully reviewed.
"The regional office correctly determined that these mines cannot be approved without a much more comprehensive review, including the addition of required protective measures to safeguard the public."
Uranium ore gathered from the La Sal complex mines, said to have a troubled history, will be transported to the White Mesa Mill in San Juan County, Utah.
In a statement, Energy Fuels Resources said: "The company is continuing to work with the US Forest Service as they evaluate minor amendments to the plan of operations for the La Sal Complex Mines. Contrary to the press release issued by the activist groups, the US Forest Service has not ‘halted’ our plans for the La Sal Complex, but is merely addressing all public comments, so that the plan of operations will continue to be fully protective of public health, safety and the environment."