Lister: Mount Taylor Mine bustling with activity during ‘standby’
By Kathy Helms May 18, 2018
Cibola County Bureau firstname.lastname@example.org
GRANTS — At the time Gulf Mineral Resources Co. was looking to open the Mount Taylor Mine, most geologists knew that the Westwater occurrence would be mineralized with uranium east of the San Rafael Fault, but deemed it too deep, too wet, too hot to produce. Yet they knew from drilling results that there were large resources there.
They acquired the land position, entered a joint venture agreement in the early 1970s with other companies – soon to be bought out by Gulf – and decided to go into commercial operation. They handed off the information about geologic resource estimates to engineers.
“The engineers took the information and started developing that technical program that was going to allow them to sink two shafts over 3,000 feet in probably the most hostile working conditions known in the western United States,” Joe Lister, manager of the mine, testified during a two-day hearing May 7 and 8 in Santa Fe before the New Mexico Mining Commission.
At issue is whether the Mining and Minerals director erred when he signed off on a permit Dec. 29, allowing the mine to return to active status although it is projected to take nearly a decade to get to the point of mineral production. The director’s decision is being challenged by the Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment and Amigos Bravos.
They contend that Rio Grande Resources, owner of the mine, has postponed cleanup by continuing to request standby permits, and with only one standby period remaining, now says it will begin producing uranium again. They also believe that “active” mines should be producing minerals and economic benefits to communities or be cleaned up.
Jim Kuipers, the groups’ expert witness, testified: “When we allow a mine to flood, that’s not a decision to keep it on standby. That’s a decision to close the mine.” Lister disagreed.