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Message: Crow Butte seeks to expand uranium mining in western Nebraska

Company seeks to expand uranium mining in western Nebraska

A company that runs the Crow Butte uranium mine in the Nebraska Panhandle wants to open as many as 3 expansion mines in the area

CRAWFORD, Neb. (AP) -- A company that runs the Crow Butte uranium mine in the Nebraska Panhandle wants to open as many as three expansion mines to keep its processing plant running.

Applications for the expansion sites near Crawford are under review by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Lincoln Journal Star reported (http://bit.ly/1OU3Zs8 ).

Cameco America spokesman Ken Vaughn said the company hopes to make significant progress in the federal regulatory process this year toward opening one of the new mines, called the Marsland expansion.

"At present, the market for uranium is fairly depressed," Vaughn said. "We're confident in the long term, but the exact timing of when the Marsland project would be developed will depend on those two factors — the approval and the market."

At least one Crawford resident is fighting the expansion. Nancy Kile traveled to Lincoln this week to ask the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission to take an official stance against the planned expansion. The commission said it would consider her concerns.

Kile fears the mine endangers area water and ecotourism. The 22,000-acre Fort Robinson State Park is just west of the mine.

But Vaughn said the facility has never polluted a neighboring well or downstream river. There are 375 monitoring wells at the mining site, he said.

Cameco began commercial operation of the Crow Butte mine in 1991 and employs about 40 people at the Crawford facility.

The company is seeking the expansion because it says it's running out of ore.

Cameco produces uranium concentrate at the Nebraska site, which is then sent to other facilities to be turned into nuclear fuel. The uranium is mined by injecting a solution into the ground, dissolving the ore. The liquid is then pumped to the surface and processed.

Crow Butte's permit covers an area of about 2,800 acres, of which 2,000 acres involve mining. The Marsland expansion includes an additional 4,600 acres, of which 1,750 acres would be mined.

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