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Decommissioning Projects - Utah, USA   flag

(last updated 11 Nov 2023)

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Abandoned uranium mines in Utah

Abandoned uranium mines in the Klondike Bluffs area near Moab

State closes several openings of abandoned mines near Moab: Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining workers closed several old and unsafe mine openings north of Moab this month, including five mine shafts, the division announced Monday (Nov. 30). In all, 17 mine openings in the area of Klondike Bluffs north of Moab were patched up using rocks, polyurethane foam and grates. The openings, described as "hazardous" by the Division of Oil, Gas and Mining, belonged to 12 uranium mines and five copper mines, all of them abandoned. The closures were prioritized because of well-used mountain bike and jeep trails nearby that bring a lot of people to the area. Where possible, workers only installed grates so bats that make the abandoned mines their home can continue to get in and out, according to division spokeswoman Hollie Brown. "At several of the mine openings, complete back filling was the only option to protect the public from high radon levels," she said. (Deseret News Nov. 30, 2015)

Abandoned Dunn uranium mine, San Juan County

State regulator stops inspections at abandoned Dunn uranium mine - in spite of remaining mine openings and missing reclamation: Utah Div. of Oil, Gas and Mining (DOGM) decided to stop inspections at Dunn Uranium Mine on BLM land in San Juan County, Utah. The August 2015 Inspection photos show the hazardous, open decline adit that has not been remediated. There was no reclamation bond. Recently Piñon Ridge Mining Co. acquired the Dunn claims, which are in sage grouse habitat. Piñon Ridge is a subsidiary of Western Uranium Corp. , which owns the proposed Piñon Ridge Mill in the Paradox Valley, Colorado, Sage Mine, and other claims. (Uranium Watch Nov. 2015)
> Access DOGM Dunn records
> Download DOGM Dunn Inspection Report , Sep. 8, 2015 (5.3MB PDF)

Abandoned uranium mines near Maverick Point in Manti-La Sal National Forest, San Juan County, Utah

Forest Service invites comment on scope of EIS for reclamation of abandoned uranium mines in Manti-La Sal National Forest: The Forest Service will prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to document the analysis and disclose the environmental impacts of the Maverick Point Forest Health Project. This project is designed to achieve goals of increasing aspen and ponderosa pine forest stand resilience and resistance to insects, disease, drought, and wildfire by altering stand density, species composition, and age class structure via use of timber harvesting and prescribed fire.
Project activities also seek to maintain or improve the productivity and diversity of wildlife habitat and improve watershed health through restoring or protecting selected springs or active head cuts, closing unauthorized roads, and reclaiming abandoned uranium mine adits and waste rock. [...]
Comments concerning the scope of the analysis described in this notice must be received by February 14, 2013.
> Federal Register Volume 78, Number 10 (Tuesday, January 15, 2013) p. 2947-2950 (download full text )
> See also: Manti-La Sal National Forest projects (USDA Forest Service)

Cleanup of abandoned Skyline uranium mine

Aerial View: Google Maps
> EPA Region 9: Skyline Abandoned Uranium Mine

A 71-year-old Navajo woman is partly to thank for the cleanup of an abandoned uranium mine that lies west of Utah's Monument Valley. Elsie Mae Begay has spent more than 30 years living among the remnants of the Skyline Mine, which she says have sickened and killed her family members. She took her story of the dangers of uranium across her reservation, to college campuses and Congress, along with a documentary outlining her family's plight. The federal government now is wrapping up a $7.5 million project that uses a cable system to take the contaminated waste up a mesa [Oljato Mesa] where it came from. The cleanup marks the first significant remediation of a mine site on the country's largest American Indian reservation where abandoned uranium mines number in the hundreds. (AP Sep. 5, 2011)

EPA wraps up cleanup of abandoned Skyline uranium mine: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has wrapped up a $7.5 million project that used a cable system to transport uranium waste back up a mesa where it came from. The cleanup of the Skyline Mine near the Arizona-Utah border means residents living below Oljato Mesa no longer have to worry about continued exposure to radiation. It also marks the first significant remediation of a mine on the Navajo Nation, where such sites number in the hundreds.
A lined repository atop the mesa now holds 25,000 cubic yards of uranium waste that was piled up on the valley floor and gathered from around an arroyo. The EPA's Jason Musante says the agency is working with tribal officials on a monitoring plan to make sure the liner holds up as expected. (AP Oct. 19, 2011)

Utah State divisions agree on handling bats in abandoned uranium mines

The state Division of Wildlife Resources, which is charged with managing bats in Utah, and the Division of Oil, Gas and Mining (DOGM), which is responsible for reclaiming abandoned mines, have signed an agreement that lays out ways in which DOGM can seal old mines dangerous to people without hurting any bat populations found inside. In cases where surveys find bats living in an abandoned uranium mine, the agreement specifies that the divisions will confer on an acceptable approach, with Wildlife Resources' officials having the final say. In many cases, the agreement will allow Oil, Gas and Mining officials to use grates to keep people out but let bats enter and exit. (The Salt Lake Tribune Apr. 23, 2010)

Fry Canyon uranium/copper project site, San Juan County

Aerial View: Google Maps

USGS report investigates contaminant dispersion from abandoned Fry Canyon uranium/copper project site to surface and ground water

"The Fry Canyon uranium/copper project site in San Juan County, southeastern Utah, was affected by the historical (1957–68) processing of uranium and copper-uranium ores. Relict uranium tailings and related ponds, and a large copper heap-leach pile at the site represent point sources of uranium and copper to local soils, surface water, and groundwater. This study was designed to establish the nature, extent, and pathways of contaminant dispersion."

Geology, Geochemistry, and Geophysics of the Fry Canyon Uranium/Copper Project Site, Southeastern Utah - Indications of Contaminant Migration , By James K. Otton, Robert A. Zielinski, and Robert J. Horton, U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2010–5075, 39 p., Sep. 1, 2010

State proposes abandoned mine reclamation project for unsecured uranium mines in Labyrinth Canyon area

Aerial View · Detail (annual Jeep Safari approaching Hey Joe mine) (Google Maps)

The Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining will begin a project in September 2006 to close 22 abandoned uranium mines in Emery and Grand counties. The mines are located in Labyrinth Canyon along the Green River northwest of Dead Horse Point State Park. The project is an ongoing part of the division's Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program and is funded by a per ton tax on current coal production in Utah. (Deseret News Sep. 7, 2006)
> Download related Division files

A proposed abandoned mine reclamation project that will seal 22 open abandoned mines along the Labyrinth Canyon area of the Green River will be discussed at an open house at the Moab Bureau of Land Management Office February 15, 2006.
The Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining’s Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program is proposing to conduct a reclamation project in the late summer and fall of 2006.
> Download DOGM release Feb. 6, 2006 (PDF)


Cottonwood Canyon area abandoned mines

Reclamation project for abandoned uranium mines near Blanding, Utah

"A historic uranium mining area now riddled with hazardous abandoned mine openings is the target of the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining's Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program. Construction activities this fall will close abandoned uranium mine openings and remove dump materials from the Cottonwood Creek drainage west of Blanding, Utah. The project, a partnership with the Bureau of Land Management and the USDA Forest Service, will improve the watershed area while protecting the public from radiation hazards associated with the mines. [...]"
> FTP-Download Utah DOGM release (Oct 4, 2002) (PDF)


San Rafael Swell abandoned mines

Public comment invited for the San Rafael Swell mine openings closure

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Price Field Office (PFO) announces a 30-day public comment period for the San Rafael Swell Abandoned Mine Closure Project Environmental Assessment (EA). The comment period begins on February 4, 2011, and concludes on March 7, 2011.
The project area is located in Emery County, Utah, about 140 miles south of Salt Lake City and 35 miles south of Price. It is generally located within the San Rafael Swell physiographic province. The project area is situated between the towns of Emery on the west, Green River on the east, and Hanksville on the south. One-hundred seventy-two openings are proposed for closure in the San Rafael Abandoned Mine Closure Project.
> View BLM release Feb. 4, 2011
> Download Environmental Assessment - San Rafael Abandoned Mine Closure Project, Jan. 2011:
Main Document (3.5M PDF) · Appendix A+B (14.8M PDF) · Appendix C-H (9M PDF)

USGS study finds elevated trace element concentrations in leachate from abandoned uranium waste dumps in the San Rafael Swell, Utah

"During July and August of 2006, 117 solid-phase samples were collected from abandoned uranium waste dumps, geologic background sites, and adjacent streambeds in the San Rafael Swell, in southeastern Utah. The objective of this sampling program was to assess the nonpoint source chemical loading potential to ephemeral and perennial watersheds from uranium waste dumps on Bureau of Land Management property. [...]
Approximately 56 percent (48/85) of the leachate samples extracted from uranium waste dumps had one or more chemical constituents that exceeded aquatic life and drinking-water-quality standards. Most of the uranium waste dump sites with elevated trace-element concentrations in leachates were along Reds Canyon Road between Tomsich Butte and Family Butte. Twelve of the uranium waste dump sites with elevated trace-element concentrations in leachates contained three or more constituents that exceeded drinking-water-quality standards. Eighteen of the uranium waste dump sites had three or more constituents that exceeded trace-element concentrations for aquatic life water-quality standards. The proximity of the uranium waste dumps in the Tomsich Butte area near Muddy Creek, coupled with the elevated concentration of trace elements, increases the offsite impact potential to water resources. [...]"

Assessment of Nonpoint Source Chemical Loading Potential to Watersheds Containing Uranium Waste Dumps Associated with Uranium Exploration and Mining, San Rafael Swell, Utah , Prepared in cooperation with the Bureau of Land Management, by Michael L. Freeman, David L. Naftz, Terry Snyder, and Greg Johnson, U.S. Geological Survey, Scientific Investigations Report 2008-5110, July 2008

State of Utah to close abandoned uranium mines in San Rafael Swell area

The Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining's Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program has begun planning the closure of abandoned uranium mines in the San Rafael Swell, approximately 20 miles north of Hanksville. The Temple Mountain Project would close approximately 140 uranium mines in a historically significant area.
> FTP-Download Utah DOGM release (Nov. 26, 2001) (PDF)


White Canyon uranium mill (also known as Hite, Utah, uranium mill), San Juan County

The small mill, essentially a pilot-scale operation, began operating in mid 1949. The mill was shut down at the end of 1953. Over its operating life, the mill treated 26,358 (short) tons of ore averaging 0.43 percent U3O8. On average, 43 percent of the ore's uranium was not recovered, but remained in the mill tailings impounded at the mill site.
The mill was dismantled by Vanadium Corporation of America (VCA) in about 1954. Based on the quantity of ore treated at the mill, the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) estimated that some 26,000 tons of tailings were originally impounded at the mill site.
In November 1963, when the future Lake Powell was scheduled to begin forming behind the Glen Canyon Dam, the AEC requested the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare to determine what would be the future radiation effect of the White Canyon mill tailings, which contained an estimated 13 grams of radium-226, when flooded by the lake. The study concluded that, given the isolated location of the site and the dilution factor represented by the large volume of water in the lake, the mill tailings could remain at the former mill site and be inundated by the lake waters. It was postulated that, after a period of years, the natural action of sedimentation in the lake would cover the tailings under several feet of silt. After the study, VCA in the mid 1960s removed some "high grade" tailings material from the former mill site and presumably reprocessed those tailings at its Shiprock, New Mexico, mill.
The former mill site and the old tailings pile were covered by rising waters of Lake Powell in 1965.
Two independent studies of large mouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) from Lake Powell report that selenium concentrations in the fish greatly exceed national averages. This abnormally high selenium concentration in fish reflects the high concentration in the reservoir. Selenium transported from the submerged tailings piles is a likely contributor to the high concentration.

Sources and further information:
White Canyon Mill Site (DOE EIA)
Uranium Mill Tailings in the Colorado River Basin (Spring 2000, Glen Canyon Institute)

Shootaring Canyon uranium mill

NRC Docket No.

> See also: Utah Division of Radiation Control - Uranium Mill Facilities - Plateau Resources Limited

> View more recent issues


NRC issues Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact concerning the proposed Reclamation Plan for the Shootaring Canyon uranium mill

Finding of No Significant Impact and Notice of Availability of the Environmental Assessment Concerning the License Amendment Request for Consideration of the Proposed Reclamation Plan for the Plateau Resources Limited Shootaring Canyon Uranium Project

Federal Register: October 2, 2003 (Volume 68, Number 191) p. 56852-56853 (download full text )

Plateau Resources to decommission Shootaring Canyon uranium mill

On October 24, 2002, Plateau Resources requested a change in its License status from operational to reclamation and submitted a Reclamation and Decommissioning Plan (RDP) for its Shootaring Canyon uranium mill. The mill had been in operation during 76 days in 1982 only and has since been held on stand-by.
"Plateau Resources, Ltd. is planning to decommission its uranium mill, referred to as the Shootaring Canyon Uranium Project. The mill is licensed to operate under a U. S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) source material license (SUA-1371). The mill operated for a very limited period of time and the tailings facility contains only 25,000 C.Y. of tailings material. An additional volume of 39,100 (18,907 tons Hanksville and 26,500 C.Y. Hydro-Jet) C.Y. of 11.e(2) material exist in the east and north dikes from the cleanup of the Hanksville buying station and the Hydro-Jet plant. Interim cover placed over the tailings is 39,310 C.Y. An additional 114,000 C.Y. of contaminated materials are planned to be added to the tailings cell."
[1 C.Y. = 0.765 cubic meters]

> See Federal Register: December 23, 2002 (Volume 67, Number 246) p. 78262-78263 (download full text ):

Notice of Amendment Request and Consideration of Proposed Reclamation Plan for the Shootaring Canyon Uranium Project, Ticaboo, Utah, and Opportunity to Provide Comments and to Request a Hearing

> View older issues

Rio Algom Lisbon uranium mill site, San Juan County, Utah

NRC Source Material License No. SUA-1119

Utah DEQ Radioactive Material License Number UT 1900481

Aerial view: Google Maps · MSRMaps

> View: Utah DEQ DWMRC's Rio Algom Mining LLC page


Utah DEQ identifies cover deficiencies of reclaimed Lisbon Valley uranium mill tailings as cause of continued groundwater contamination plume, demands cover repair

Two [groundwater contamination] plumes have been identified. [...] The plumes have exceeded the long-term surveillance and maintenance (LTSM) boundary. [...]
Recent findings and discussions have determined that the impoundment covers are not preventing discharge of tailings into the groundwater. Cover does not appear to be constructed according to approved design.
Cover repair, continued mitigation, and continued groundwater modeling is necessary
> Download: Lisbon Valley Uranium Mill - Lessons Learned , Utah DEQ Waste Management and Radiation Control, April 22, 2022 (19.9MB PDF)

Utah DEQ wants improvements for cover of reclaimed Lisbon Valley uranium mill tailings

Rio Algom Mining's Lisbon Valley Mill, a reclaimed mill on Lisbon Valley Rd., south of La Sal, has been reclaimed, but has not been transferred to the Department of Energy for perpetual care. The earthen cover over the unlined impoundment reduces radon emissions, but allows for percolation of surface water, leading to contamination of groundwater in the area. A "Hydrological Supplemental Site Assessment" was completed in 2018. The DWMRC determined that the assessment did not provide sufficient data and analyses. The DWMRC has requested additional groundwater monitoring and analysis information. The DWMRC wants changes in the cover to facilitate evaporation rather than percolation. (Uranium Watch May 13, 2019)
> Download: DWMRC Request for Additional Information Letter Regarding Review of the August 30, 2018, RAML Hydrogeological Supplemental Site Assessment , April 17, 2019 (298 kB PDF)
> Download: Rio Algom Lisbon Facility, Hydrogeological Supplemental Site Assessment , Aug. 30, 2018 (598 MB PDF)
> Download: Rio Algom Lisbon Facility, Tailing Impoundments Water Balance Modeling Report , Aug. 30, 2018 (5.9 MB PDF)

Comment invited on proposed licence renewal for former Rio Algom Lisbon uranium mill site

Written comments will be accepted until the close of business on January 12, 2017.
> View Public Notice, Nov. 28, 2016
> Download related documents

Comment invited on proposed requirement to collect additional groundwater data at former Lisbon uranium mill site

The amended License Condition 56 shall require the licensee to submit a work plan and schedule by December 16, 2011 [!?] for Executive Secretary review and approval. The purpose of this work plan and schedule is to collect additional field data in the area of the former uranium mill property and provide an analysis of the existing data to be used for subsequent technical evaluation of the Licensee's Application for Alternate Concentration Limits and Long Term Ground Water Monitoring Plan (Approved by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission May 11, 2004, License No. SUA-1119, Amendment 66).
The public comment period will end at 5:00 p.m. on Friday, January 20, 2012.
> View Utah Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), Division of Radiation Control (DRC) notice, Dec. 21, 2011
> Download Draft License Amendment (PDF)
> Download Statement of Basis (PDF)

NRC approves erosion protection design for Lisbon uranium mill tailings

Federal Register: May 12, 2004 (Vol. 69, No. 92) p. 26416-26417 (download full text )

NRC approves relaxed groundwater standards for Lisbon mill site

In a draft Environmental Assessment (EA) of January 2004, NRC concludes that the relaxed groundwater standards would have no significant impact:
"On the basis of the draft EA, NRC concluded that there would be no significant environmental impacts from the proposed action. Accordingly, the staff has determined that there is no need to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed action. A Finding of No Significant Impact will be published in the Federal Register if there are no significant concerns noted by the consulted agencies."
By letter dated Feb. 3, 2004, NRC requested the Utah Department of the Environment to provide any comments within 30 days.

The Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) was published in Federal Register: April 23, 2004 (Vol. 69, No. 79) p. 22100-22101 (download full text )

The license amendment was issued on May 11, 2004.

> Download final Environmental Assessment (April 2004)

Rio Algom applies for relaxed groundwater standards for Lisbon mill site

Notice in Federal Register Vol. 67, No. 142, p. 48495 (Jul. 24, 2002) (download full notice ):
"SUMMARY: Notice is hereby given that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has received, by letter dated May 22, 2002, an application from Rio Algom Mining LLC (Rio Algom) to establish Alternate Concentration Limits and amend the Source Material License No. SUA-1119 for the Lisbon uranium mill facility. "
A request for hearing must be filed within 30 days of July 24, 2002.

From Rio Algom's May 22, 2002, application:

"Results of this assessment indicate that aquifer restoration cannot be achieved in less than 28 years or for less than $23,000,000 given any active remedial scenario. In contrast, the cost to implement natural attenuation in conjunction with institutional controls is only about $ 388,000."

Rio Algom wants to defer completion of radon barrier by 18 years

Notice in Federal Register Vol. 63, No. 239, p.68802-68803 (Dec. 14, 1998) (download full notice ):
"SUMMARY: Notice is hereby given that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has received, by letter dated October 23, 1998, a request from Rio Algom Mining Corporation (Rio Algom) to amend License Condition (LC) 55 A.(3) of Source Material License SUA-1119 for the Lisbon, Utah, facility. The license amendment request proposes to modify LC 55 A.(3) to change the completion date for placement of the final radon barrier on the pile. The date proposed by Rio Algom would extend completion of the final radon barrier by 18 years."

Atlas Co. Moab Uranium Mill Tailings Reclamation (Utah)

> See: extra page

Energy Queen mine, San Juan County

> See: here

> View background information on Uranium Mill Tailings Management - USA

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