PARADOX VALLEY – While Energy Fuels Inc. continues toward its application process to build the proposed Piñon Ridge Uranium Mill in the Paradox Valley, an effort to save the valley from the mill is already underway.
Ridgway resident John Metcalf, who calls himself the “instigator” of www.savingparadox.org, has set up the website to educate the public on a number of environmental and social concerns surrounding the proposed uranium mill and has created a photo contest with cash prizes that will help portray the environmental beauty and identity of the Paradox Valley.
The proposed mill would rest on approximately 880 acres in the Paradox Valley 12 miles east of Bedrock. If approved by Montrose County and the Colorado Department of Health and Environment the mill would be sized to process 1,000 tons of uranium ore a day, which will then likely be shipped to an enrichment plant in Kentucky for further processing into plutonium for nuclear energy plant use. If the approval processes goes in favor of Energy Fuels, Inc., the mill could be operational by 2010.
Metcalf was among a number of other residents who showed concern on May 28 in Norwood when George Glasier, president and CEO of Energy Fuels, said the characteristics of the 880-acre site in the valley “are as good as they get” because it sits “reasonably close” to population centers “but not too close.” Glasier also said the site sits atop dry geologic formations, which would cut down on possible water contamination from tailings ponds.
“My biggest concern is that this mill is going to turn the Paradox Valley into a wasteland for the next 64 million years,” Metcalf said. “The tailings ponds will have the biggest long-term impact. Number two, the dust blowing from the dust piles can cause lung cancer. And number three, the groundwater contamination is an issue.”
Metcalf is a member of Western Colorado Congress and fell in love with the beauty of the Paradox Valley on his trips through to Moab. Besides environmental destruction and health concerns, Metcalf says he is also worried about the economic effects the mill will have on those who live in the area.
“It seems that in talking with some people in Paradox, the biggest concern seems to be real estate devaluation,” he said. “People will not be able to sell their land because it lies next to a large uranium mill. There are already a lot of real estate for sale signs in the valley and people could be trying to sell out while they still can.”
Metcalf said that while other organizations have taken up other issues in fighting the mill, he, in creating the website and funding a photo contest, is to “actually get people to go there and experience the valley” by taking new photos. Winning photos will be exhibited in cafes and other venues throughout the state for savingparadox.org’s campaign to bring awareness.
“The second phase of the contest will be to have the photographs mounted and hung as exhibits as far as I can extend my reach – maybe even as far as the Front Range,” he said. “A lot of people say they don’t know Paradox. My idea is to get as many people out there as possible”
Metcalf is offering up $300 for the first-place prize, $200 for second, $100 for third and fourth places, and $50 for fourth. Submitted photos must be current year photographs of, in, or on top of the Paradox Valley. Submission deadline is Monday, Aug. 4, 2008.
While Metcalf is supplying the photo prize money for the contest, he said he needs supporters and sponsors to help pay for creating exhibits.
For more information on the photo contest, the effects of the mill and ways to voice concerns, visit www.savingparadox.org.