GATEWAY, Colo. With demand for uranium soaring as Asian economies expand, the old Packrat uranium mine is expected to reopen once Mesa County authorities approve.
Energy Resources Corp., based in Canada, filed a request for a conditional use permit to open the mine on the cliffs above Gateway three weeks ago, the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reported.
Gateway is on the Colorado-Utah border about 220 miles west of Denver and 35 miles southwest of Grand Junction.
Energy Resources said the mine likely would employ 20 people and be open for 10 years.
In the past five years, metal-mining claims have risen on Western lands by 80 percent, according to the Bureau of Land Management. Colorado and Utah are the leaders in uranium claims.
Uranium once was a major Colorado export including some of the material used to make the first atomic bombs dropped on Japan.
Safety problems shut down many nuclear reactors, and demand died.
Energy Resources also has applied with the Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Board for a permit for the mine, which would be called the Whirlwind Mine.
It could mean a return of prosperity to the area 50 miles south of Grand Junction.
"A lot of our younger people moved away a number of years ago when the mines closed down, so hopefully it will bring some of them back," said Elda Graham, 68, whose husband, Robert, 77, worked in the mines and drove trucks to the mills.
Some new Gateway residents support the opening of the mine. The owners of the 141 Diner, Josie and Randy Blaser, have highlighted radioactivity on their menu with offerings such as the Uranium Burger for $6.99 and the Atomic Chicken sandwich for $7.25.
"I think it will affect us positively," Josie Blaser said of the Whirlwind Mine. "The local economy could use a boost."
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