[Federal Register Volume 75, Number 172 (Tuesday, September 7, 2010)]
[Pages 54384-54385]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2010-22174]



Bureau of Land Management

[LLWY930000-L51100000-GN0000-LVEMK10CW370; WYW140590]

Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for 
the Gas Hills Uranium Project, Fremont and Natrona Counties, WY

AGENCY: Bureau of Land Management, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of Intent.


SUMMARY: Pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as 
amended, (NEPA) and in response to a proposal filed by Power Resources 
Inc., doing business as Cameco Resources (Cameco), the Bureau of Land 
Management (BLM), announces its intention to prepare an Environmental 
Impact Statement (EIS) and to solicit public comments regarding issues 
and resource information for the proposed Gas Hills in situ recovery 
(ISR) Uranium Project (the Project), Fremont County and Natrona County, 
Wyoming. The project is a uranium exploration and development project.

DATES: This notice initiates the public scoping process. The BLM can 
best consider public input if comments and resource information are 
submitted within 45 days of publication of this notice. To provide the 
public with an opportunity to review the proposal and project 
information, the BLM will host public meetings in Lander, Riverton, and 
Casper, Wyoming. The BLM will announce the dates, times, and locations 
for these meetings at least 15 days prior to each event. Announcements 
will be made by news release to the media, individual letter mailings, 
and posting on the project Web site listed below.

ADDRESSES: Written comments or resource information may be mailed to: 
Bureau of Land Management, Lander Field Office, Attn: Kristin Yannone, 
Project Manager, P.O. Box 589, Lander, Wyoming 82520. Comments may be 
submitted electronically at: [email protected]. 
Project information and documents will be available on the project Web 
site at: http://www.blm.gov/wy/st/en/info/NEPA/lfodocs/gashills.html.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION: For information or to add your name to the 
project mailing list, contact Kristin Yannone, Project Leader, at 307-

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Gas Hills Uranium Project is generally 
located in:

Sixth Principal Meridian, Wyoming

T. 32 N., R. 80 and 90 W.
T. 33 N., R. 80 and 90 W.

    This is an area of historic uranium mining development, the 
earliest of which dates back to the 1950s. This area lies in the 
eastern part of Fremont County and the western part of Natrona County, 
approximately 50 road miles east of Riverton, Wyoming, and 
approximately 85 road miles west of Casper, Wyoming, in the Gas Hills 
Mining District, in which little to no actual mining activity has taken 
place since the 1980s.
    The Project area covers approximately 8,538 surface acres 
(approximately 13 square miles) of mixed ownership including 7,940 
acres of Federal surface, 161 acres under State ownership, and 394 
acres of private lands. Approximately 8,006 acres of Federal mineral 
estate is included in the Project area. While the Project area contains 
Federal surface and mineral estate under the jurisdiction of both the 
BLM Lander and BLM Casper field offices, the Lander Field Office will 
serve as the lead office for coordinating the environmental analysis. 
The Project is permitted by the Wyoming Department of Environmental 
Quality--Land Quality Division (LQD) under Permit to Mine No. 687 and 
is licensed by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission under Source 
Materials License SUQ-1548. Cameco also controls mining claims outside 
of the approved mining permit boundary for which future exploration and 
development are planned.
    In August 2008, as required by the surface management regulations 
contained in 43 CFR subpart 3809, Cameco submitted a Plan of Operations 
to the BLM describing their intent to develop their claims in the area 
with an ISR mining operation, which would affect more than a total of 
640 acres over the life of the mine. For more information about the ISR 
process, the reader is referred to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's 
Generic EIS of In-Situ Leach Uranium Milling Facilities (2009) 
available at: http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/nuregs/staff/sr1910/; particularly Chapter 2. The BLM anticipates impacts from 
the ISR mining. The environmental analysis will consider the activities 
conducted under the Plan of Operations submitted to the BLM.
    The purpose of the proposed Project is to explore for and identify 
mining reserves and extract approximately 1 million to 2.5 million 
pounds of uranium per year over an anticipated project life of 25 
years. The Project will use ISR mining methods and will be operated as 
a satellite facility to the Cameco Smith Ranch-Highland uranium ISR 
mine operating in Converse County, Wyoming. An existing large building 
will house the site's central processing facilities. The surface 
disturbance will be limited to the construction of water wells, buried 
water pipelines, single-lane gravel access roads, and small buildings 
for well-head manifold control equipment known as header houses.
    The ISR mining recovery method uses chemicals to remove the uranium 
minerals from the host rock in place and does not require physically 
removing and crushing ore-bearing rock. It does not use large earth-
moving equipment and does not create large volumes of waste rock or 
tailings. The ISR methodology utilizes a solution consisting of oxygen 
and carbon dioxide or bicarbonate mixed with water, which is injected 
via conventional water wells into uranium ore-bearing rock formations 
in the subsurface. The solution dissolves the uranium minerals from the 
rock formations into the circulating groundwater and the resultant 
uranium-bearing groundwater is recovered by pumping at recovery wells 
located adjacent to the injection wells. Before ISR operations can 
begin, the portion of the aquifer designated for uranium recovery must 
be exempted as an underground source of drinking

[[Page 54385]]

water in accordance with the Safe Drinking Water Act. The groundwater 
containing uranium is then processed through an ion-exchange facility 
where the uranium is precipitated onto a resin bead media. The water is 
recharged with solvent and used in the further recovery of uranium. Any 
excess water no longer needed is evaluated for its constituents and 
properly disposed of via evaporation or an approved disposal well. The 
resin beads containing uranium will then be transported to the Cameco 
Smith Ranch-Highland facility for processing into uranium yellowcake. 
After the uranium has been removed, the resin bead media will be 
returned to the Project site for re-use. The distance one-way from the 
Gas Hills to Smith Ranch-Highland is approximately 140 road miles.
    The Project activities will include the drilling of exploratory 
boreholes; installation of monitoring wells, injection wells, and 
production wells; construction of uranium processing and waste water 
treatment facilities; and development of new and improvement of 
existing access roads within separately defined potential uranium 
recovery areas known as mine units. Surface-disturbing and interim-
reclamation activities will be performed sequentially to minimize the 
amount of surface disturbance at any one time.
    Surface disturbance within a mine unit will not occur all at once 
but is phased over several years, depending on the uranium production 
rate and the availability of mine construction equipment and personnel. 
Cameco estimates that of the approximately 1,205 acres that will be 
disturbed over the 25-year life of the Project, approximately 50 acres 
(4 percent of the total acreage) each year will be disturbed, undergo 
interim reclamation, and subsequently be returned to wildlife habitat 
that meets BLM and State of Wyoming reclamation standards. Final 
surface reclamation is also required by regulatory agencies and assured 
by bonds. Final reclamation includes plugging and abandoning all mining 
wells, removing header houses and buried piping, and re-grading and 
seeding the disturbed surface. After vegetation has been re-
established, the mine unit surface will be returned to its pre-mining 
use of livestock grazing and wildlife habitat. Cameco estimates that 
the long-term post-mining footprint will be negligible because the ISR 
mining method does not require removal of rock.
    Restoration of groundwater to pre-mining quality and final surface 
reclamation within a mine unit is also a sequenced, phased process. 
When uranium production from a mining unit is no longer feasible 
economically, groundwater production wells will be switched to 
groundwater restoration. Restoration is accomplished through a 
combination of methods, including reinjection of treated groundwater, 
bioremediation, and addition of reducing chemicals that make the 
uranium insoluble and clean the groundwater. Once Cameco has restored 
the groundwater within a mine unit to pre-mining quality, as required 
and monitored by regulatory agencies and assured by financial bonds, 
final surface reclamation will be implemented. Groundwater sampling 
data suggests that mining unit groundwater quality is generally 
marginally potable but does exhibit certain parameters, including 
radionuclides, which exceed primary or secondary maximum contaminant 
levels for drinking water standards.
    Cameco estimates that the Project will employ a mix of full-time 
personnel and temporary contractors throughout the life of the mine. 
During the construction of each mine unit, approximately 15 to 20 full-
time employees plus 50 drilling contractors will be employed. During 
mining operations, approximately 30 full-time employees plus 
approximately 22 installation contractors will be required. It is 
likely that the majority of employees will live in Riverton and the 
remainder in Casper. The Project is projected to provide an economic 
benefit through a variety of taxes paid to Federal, State, and local 
governments, including employee income, severance, property, and sales 
taxes. The proposed action is in conformance with the Lander Resource 
Management Plan/Final Environmental Impact Statement (LRMP/Final EIS) 
and Record of Decision (ROD), 1987, and the Casper Resource Management 
Plan (CRMP/EIS) and ROD, 2007. During the preparation of the EIS, 
interim exploration and development will be subject to development 
guidelines and decisions made in applicable NEPA documents, including 
the CRMP, 2007 and the LRMP, 1987. The EIS for the Project will analyze 
the environmental consequences of implementing the proposed action and 
alternatives to the proposed action, including a No Action alternative. 
Other alternatives that may be considered in detail could include, for 
example, drilling surface densities, reclamation schedule adjustments, 
or perhaps a pace of development different from those of the proposed 
    Your input is important and will be considered in the environmental 
analysis process. All comment submittals must include the commenter's 
name and street address. Comments, including the names and addresses of 
the respondent, will be available for public inspection at the above 
offices during normal business hours, Monday through Friday, except 
Federal holidays. All submissions from organizations or businesses, and 
from individuals identifying themselves as representatives or officials 
of organizations or businesses, will be made available for public 
inspection in their entirety.
    Before including your address, phone number, e-mail address, or any 
other personal identifying information in your comment, please consider 
that your entire comment--including your personal identifying 
information--may be publicly available at any time.
    While you can ask us in your comment to withhold from public review 
your personal identifying information, we cannot guarantee that we will 
be able to do so.

Donald A. Simpson,
State Director.
[FR Doc. 2010-22174 Filed 9-3-10; 8:45 am]