A uranium producer plans to build a mill outside this town to service several uranium mines in western Colorado and eastern Utah.
Energy Fuels Resources Corp., based in nearby Nucla, owns mines near Gateway and in Utah between Moab and Blanding.
“One of the things this area lacks is a uranium mill,” said company President George Glasier said. “But what we really need is a mill that’s closer to the actual mines we’ll be producing from.”
The facility has been planned to be built within three years next to the U.S. Department of Energy site just outside of Naturita, Glasier said. The company will have to wait about two years for the state to license the mill and then spend nine months constructing it.
About 100 people will be employed to operate the mill, Glasier said, and additional mines could be opened in the future to extract more uranium, which has roughly tripled in value from $15 per pound since 2002 and could hit $60 early next year. The only existing mill in the area, in Blanding, Utah, is operating at capacity.
Glasier said the facility will also process vanadium, a chemical element used to harden steel, which is in huge demand in China and India.
“Vanadium is worth almost as much as the uranium,” he said.
The mill could revitalized the west end of Montrose County and create an economic boom in the area, said County Commissioner David Ubell. Several uranium mills operated in western Colorado until the uranium market crashed in 1981 after the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island
Colorado Environmental Coalition organizer Lee-Ann Hill said there are environmental concerns that the mill could impact air quality as well as how uranium ore will be stored and transported.