Our latest set to show you…..uranium mining!

From our early blogs about the increase in uranium mining here in the U.S. (which has just as much merit today with our country’s ever-rising energy prices as it did back in 2008) to our more recent blogs, uranium mining is something we’ve been watching for quite some time. Back in 2009 we blogged about the Cotter Corporation’s uranium mill in Canon City, CO and it’s status as one of the Superfund sites in the U.S. And we were pleased to receive a note of thanks for our blog regarding mining too close to residential areas.

So what is all the fuss about? Have a look:

Aerial views of open-pit uranium mines in the Gas Hills of central Wyoming. Probably taken during summer 2002. Photos courtesy of LightHawk.



Satellite images showing details of landscape impact caused by an “in-situ” uranium leaching operation in central Wyoming operated by Power Resources, Incorporated. In 2008, PRI was fined by the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality for multiple violations at this facility.

Detail of open-pit uranium mining near Wollaston Lake, Saskatchewan, Canada.

For more images, visit our Flickr gallery here.

Cotter Uranium Superfund Site, Colorado – Staying Shuttered

We just learned that the Cotter Corporation has decided not to re-open it’s uranium mill near Canon City. While it was operating this plant contaminated soil and groundwater so severely that in 1984 it was designated a Superfund toxic-waste site. Cleanup to remediate high levels of uranium and molybdenum has lagged, and SkyTruth images show that parts of the site actually overlap with areas that FEMA has designated high-risk flood zones — some leading right into adjacent residential neighborghoods.

Keeping the mill shuttered may be a relief for some local residents, but it comes with a catch: Cotter has notified the state that it will no longer conduct routine monitoring for buildup of dangerous, heavier-than-air radon gas, a breakdown product of the uranium. And government officials are wondering, if Cotter runs out of cash, who will foot the bill for the complex and expensive cleanup to protect public health.

SkyTruth – How Do We Help?

At SkyTruth we focus on creating images from satellite and aerial imagery that shed light on environmental concerns, especially landscape- and ecosystem-altering activities such as oil and gas drilling, mining, and deforestation. Many citizen’s groups, large and small, use our work to help raise awareness of the problems and issues they’re confronting. Every so often we get a note of thanks, letting us know exactly how we’ve helped, often in ways we didn’t even foresee. We just received this one, with permission from the author to share it with you. She is fighting uranium mining in Colorado, and writes this in response to images of mining near residential neighborhoods that we posted last week:

You can never know how much you’ve helped our effort.


In our pain and anguish, we never found the Butte, Montana, mine. We always looked for a uranium mine. However the Berkeley Mine is pertinent because of the devastation to their water.


We’ve always believed that there was one issue that would save us… and that is water!


Your photos of the Berkeley Mine led us to diagrams of the dewatering of their area. That mine is literally across the street from Butte, Montana, and the people with private water wells were probably hooked up to city water (that fact is no excuse for this disaster),but what will we do when our water table is lowered and our water wells run dry? We are 9 miles, as the crow flies, from city water.


The Fremont Board of County Commissioners voted to approve Uranium Exploration within 500 feet of 44 land and homeowners. They’ve stated that they do not believe they can “take” the rancher’s minerals. They won’t exercise their own authority to deny an inappropriate adjacent land use to our homes and retirement properties.


Water is our last weapon. Your photos lead us to examples of how massive dewatering affects the area. Not only by the absence of water, but by the contamination of the water that infills the contaminated hole that is left. More than one mine in Montana has to have water treatment in “perpetuity.” Who pays for that cost? Taxpayers! It’s disgraceful to allow this to happen. It’s a waste beyond words… of precious Western water, and taxpayer resources.


How can these backwards legislators continue to vote to allow this kind of thing to happen when the results are so proven to cost multi-million dollars more than the few jobs these projects bring?


Thank you, more than words can express. Doesn’t mean that they will do the right thing, but it’s a fantastic start!

Cotter Uranium Mill Superfund Site, Colorado

We’re finding some interesting things with the FEMA flood data. Yesterday it was coal-combustion waste storage in high-risk flood zones; today it’s uranium mill process wastes:

The Cotter Corporation, a subsidiary of General Atomics, began operating a uranium mill on the outskirts of Canon City, Colorado, in 1958. Liquid wastes containing radionuclides and heavy metals were discharged from 1958 to 1978 into eleven unlined tailings ponds. The ponds were replaced in 1982 with the construction of two lined impoundments. Prior to 1982, a number of Lincoln Park wells showed elevated levels of contamination. The site was placed on the National Priorities List (NPL) of Superfund sites on September 21, 1984.

In 2001, Cotter Corp. applied for a license amendment to reopen the mill. (Click here for more information).

We overlaid flood data from FEMA showing areas at high risk of flooding that cross the Cotter facility and lead directly into residential neighborhoods just one mile from the site. Check out our small gallery of images.

Yikes. I wonder what we’ll find tomorrow.

Data source: FEMA Stay-Dry flood data (a Google Earth file)

UPDATE 4/27/09: Watch a 10-minute documentary film on the Cotter mill site and other issues surrounding uranium mining and milling (produced by Colorado Citizens Against Toxic Waste).

Uranium Mining – Another Side to Nuclear Power

With energy prices rising steadily, nuclear power is reviving. The number of reactors worldwide is now 315, jumping by 93 (42%) in 2007. So it’s no surprise that uranium mining is booming. Thousands of new uranium mining claims have been staked across the US in the past few years, existing uranium mines are ramping up production, defunct mines are being re-opened, and new mine proposals crop up like mushrooms (hmmm….), especially in the Western US, even along the rim of the Grand Canyon.

It’s good to remember that it’s not just nuclear waste that’s a serious problem; the mining, processing and transport of uranium can get ugly too. Case in point: an in-situ uranium mine near Douglas Wyoming — touted by industry and government officials as a model for modern uranium-mining techniques — is now being investigated for “an alarming volume of environmental violations.” Take a look at our Google Earth-generated pics of the site (showing what appears to be an open dumpsite next to the main facility, with open ponds and trenches containing water or other liquids). Earth users, download our KMZ to take your own self-guided tour. Try your hand at image analysis, and let us know what you think is going on at this site.