On the News | Paleontology rich area left out of Bears Ears for uranium mining @ The Durango Herald

On the News @ The Durango Herald


Paleontology rich area left out of Bears Ears for uranium mining

“What was left out of the new Bears Ears National Monument in southeast Utah relieved uranium miners, but is upsetting paleontologists.

Paleontologist Rob Gay, of Museums of Western Colorado, said he is encouraged that the fossils-rich Bears Ears is now protected. But he was disheartened when he found out Red Canyon was dropped from the final monument boundaries.

During a Friends of Cedar Mesa conference last month in Bluff, Gay said that fossils in that area are mostly unstudied.

“Red Canyon is the most important paleontology area in southeast Utah,” he said. “The most significant site is not protected.”

The canyon is the best place to study the Pennsylvania Era — 270 million to 310 million years ago — when dinosaurs began their transition to terrestrial dominance.

“Like Gary Larson (The Far Side) comics where fish crawl out onto land, that change from aquatic life to a dinosaur world is preserved right there,” Gay said. “I’m the only presenter advocating to expand the monument.”

Uranium mine avoidedThe Red Canyon area was left out of the monument’s proposal to accommodate untapped uranium resources and mines, including the Daneros Uranium Mine, owned by Energy Fuels.

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That is a relief for mine companies because national monuments prohibit new mining operations.

Prior to the designation, “we spoke to a few elected officials and government employees about our concerns,” with the monument boundaries, said Curtis Moore, vice-president of marketing for Energy Fuels.

The Daneros mine is southwest of Fry Canyon, and is three miles from the monument. It is closed, but owners are seeking approval from the Bureau of Land Management to expand the mine from 4.5 acres to 46 acres and increase mining capacity. The proposal calls for increasing ore production from 100,000 tons over seven years to 500,000 tons over 20 years.” (…) READ MORE