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Cotter won’t process radioactive waste

Brief by Central Staff

Uranium – April 2008 – Colorado Central Magazine

The Cotter Corporation, which owns Colorado’s only uranium mill in Cañon City, has abandoned a plan to process radioactive material from New Jersey. In 2002, the company received a contract to handle 470,000 tons of low-level radioactive waste to be transported from the Maywood Superfund Site.

Some Cañon residents organized Colorado Citizens Against Toxic Waste in opposition. In 2004, the state health department denied Cotter a permit. Cotter lost a challenge to that decision, and appealed to federal court, where a judge upheld the health department.

Cotter mill manager John Hamrick said the deadline had passed for a further appeal, and “we’ve made a conscious decision not to appeal it.”

Sharyn Cunningham, co-chair of CCAT, said Cotter’s decision “really shows that people can make a difference if they work hard enough.”

Cotter will now decide whether to re-open the mill, which would involve replacing most equipment and structures since, as Hamrick put it, “The equipment is old and tired, and they don’t make the parts any more.”

The mill is not active and has not processed ore for two years, but it has a small crew and last year won a safety award from the Colorado Mining Association and the Division of Reclamation and Mining Safety.

The Cotter mill opened in 1958. The site and part of the nearby Lincoln Park area became a Superfund site in 1988 after material leaked into groundwater from unlined tailings ponds. The mill has operated intermittently since then.