In an amazing turn of events, county commissioners in two key New Mexico counties have taken giant political steps to revive the Nuclear Renaissance in this state. Concerns about the energy crisis, dependence upon foreign oil and global warming have recently led many politicians to suggest alternatives, namely nuclear energy. The record uranium price also helps bring big dollars into their local economies. Both counties are blessed with abundant uranium resources, which they are now encouraging to be mined.
What was once the world’s top producing uranium area, the Grants Uranium District has largely slumbered through the emerging uranium boom of the past three years. Stock analysts and investors discounted efforts by those uranium mining companies which have been moving their flagship projects forward, primarily Uranium Resources (URRE) and Strathmore Minerals (STHJF). In light of these developments, their opinions could soon change.
This past September, Cibola County passed a resolution supporting and encouraging uranium mining. The county clearly believes the renewal of uranium mining would provide a strong economic boost for its residents. This resolution did not surprise us. We first reported on the pro-uranium pulse of Grants (New Mexico) and Cibola County in late June 2005. The county’s head of economic development told us, “We will greet them (uranium miners) with open arms.” And then they did in both county and city resolutions which followed three months later.
What DID surprise us was the nearly identical resolution passed by McKinley County Commissioners. Having traveled through this county and interviewed various personalities, the county-wide resolution amounts to nothing short of a miracle. That’s because the adjacent Navajo Nation, in the four corners area (New Mexico, Utah, Colorado and Arizona), banned uranium mining in 2005. The city of Gallup is McKinley’s county seat. Gallup’s Wal Mart is reportedly where the Navajos do most of their shopping. More than 36 percent of Gallup’s residents are Navajo.
Even more amazing is the fact that McKinley County Commissioner Ernest C. Becenti, Jr, the gentleman who introduced McKinley County Resolution Number DEC-06-088 for consideration by the County Commission, is a Navajo. One of the primary reasons cited in the resolution was to replace the economic loss the county will suffer when the Pittsburgh & Midway coal mine shuts down in 2008. This resolution is likely to have a broad impact within the Navajo community in Gallup because it will help replace those lost mining jobs.
We talked with Mark Pelizza, vice president of environmental affairs for Uranium Resources, who told us, “We are pleased the principals of McKinley County understand the economic benefits of uranium mining.” How big is it? “The potential impact is huge,” Pelizza said, “At $100/pound and 10 million pounds U3O8 produced annually, it could bring $1 billion in uranium sales to the local economy.”
Strathmore Minerals’ vice president of environmental affairs Juan Velasquez wrote in an email, “We have enjoyed a lot of grass roots support from the folks in the Grants area, and we are heartened that McKinley County is favorable to our activities.” The resolutions should impact both companies in 2007 because they were the first to commence the required activities to obtain uranium mining licenses.
Uranium Resources has been actively involved in New Mexico since 1986, according to Pelizza, and obtained its NRC approval in the mid 1990s (recently reaffirmed by the NRC). Strathmore Minerals opened its environmental permitting office in 2005 and has been progressing through the state and federal permissions activities for two of its New Mexico uranium properties.
Over the past year, several other uranium companies became more active in the Grants Uranium District, such as Urex Energy (OTC BB: URXE), Laramide (LMRXF) and Western Uranium (WURNF). Another advanced stage junior uranium mining company, Energy Metals Corp (EMU) also holds properties in New Mexico, but decided to first develop its projects in Texas and Wyoming.
This past June, New Mexico State Senator Joseph A. Fidel, who represents one of the counties in the Grants Uranium District, told StockInterview, “The community will be very supportive of uranium mining. People will be cooperative and will react positively, when the time comes.” In June, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued LES a draft license to build and operate the first U.S. uranium enrichment facility in more than thirty years. It appears New Mexico’s time has come, and this state is back on track to revive its formerly world-class uranium mining industry.
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