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Funds run dry for road to proposed uranium mines

Jul 2, 2013 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

A plan to rebuild a road that provides access to two planned uranium mines and links public highways has run into a lack of funds.

"It's an important project for our development and other developments and the general public," said Cameco Resources public and government affairs manager Ken Vaughn.

Fremont County transportation superintendent Dave Pendleton said a recent cost estimate found the $4.2 million project is short about $918,000.

About 7.6 miles of Dry Creek Road have deteriorated so much that it is nearly impassable in winter, Pendleton said. The roadway also lacks right of ways and has not been maintained.

The road would provide access to Strathmore Minerals and Cameco uranium mines in the Gas Hills area and connect Wyoming Highway 136, also called Gas Hills Road, to Natrona County's Dry Creek Road, Pendleton said. A plan had been worked out between involved parties to secure the right of ways, which would have turned the road over to the county.

Then it was found that the current route runs over Strathmore mineral claims, he said.

To resolve the issue, Pendleton, with the Fremont County Commission's approval, surveyed a new route for about 2,000 feet of the road to circumvent Strathmore's planned development.

"Part of it could be rerouted a little bit to try to keep everybody comfortable with the route of the road," Vaughn said.

Three sources could help fund the project: the Wyoming Business Council, Abandoned Mine Land funds and Umetco Minerals.

On June 4, Fremont County commissioners approved an application for a $1.5 million grant from the Wyoming Business Council.

Pendleton said about $2 million might be available from the Abandoned Mine Lands program, but $824,000 of it will go toward reclaiming Umetco's Rattlesnake Quarry, which is near the road.

Umetco then would contribute up to $386,000 to rebuild Dry Creek Road. That figure is the total the company is obligated to pay toward reclaiming the Rattlesnake Quarry following a reclamation bond, Pendleton said.

Vaughn said the Abandoned Mine Lands funds were not yet a surety.

All those funds add up to about $3.3 million, leaving the $918,000 gap.

Cameco paid for initial engineering and design work, before the new route was necessary, Pendleton said.

Vaughn said his company would look at contributing further, but it would depend on the viability of the project and the market price of uranium.

"Right now it's fairly low," he said.

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