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Lawsuit Seeks to Halt Drilling, Expansion of La Sal-Area Mine

MOAB — Three Moab-based conservation groups filed a federal lawsuit this week to halt uranium exploration and the construction of radon vent holes on U.S. Forest Service land in the Manti-La Sal National Forest in La Sal, San Juan County.

The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City, challenges a decision by the Moab/Monticello Ranger District to permit the drilling of 16 exploration drill holes and two radon vent holes as part of the expansion of the Pandora Uranium Mine.

The Pandora Mine is owned by Denison Mines Corp. Uranium ore from the mine is transported to Denison's uranium mill on White Mesa, a few miles south of Blanding in San Juan County.

The groups — Living Rivers, Uranium Watch and the Center for Water Advocacy — also filed a request for a preliminary injunction at the Pandora Mine to stay ground disturbance and construction of the exploration holes and radon vent holes until the case can be fully heard by the federal court.

The citizens' groups challenge the granting of a "categorical exclusion" for the projects and request that the Forest Service develop a full environmental analysis of the projects as part of the proposed expansion of the Pandora Mine.

In December 2009, Denison Mines submitted an amended "plan of operations" to the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and the state Division of Oil, Gas and Mining.

The lawsuit asserts the Forest Service approved the new projects without consideration of the cumulative environmental impacts from the expansion of the Pandora Mine. Additionally, the lawsuit says the Pandora Mine is operating under an outdated environmental analysis from 1981.

Radon is vented to the surface from the underground mine operations so that miners will not breathe in radon gas and be exposed to the short-lived, highly radioactive particles that are produced when radon decays.

The proposed radon vents would add to the amount of radon gas and radioactive particulates released in the vicinity of the community of La Sal, on the south slope of the La Sal Mountains, according to a news release from Uranium Watch.

To view the article, visit http://www.deseretnews.com/article/700052367/Lawsuit-seeks-to-halt-drilling-expansion-of-La-Sal-area-mine.html.