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Energy Fuels/Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Sulfuric acid extracts uranium and vanadium from waste materials at the White Mesa Uranium Mill, 2014, Wikimedia Commons


White Mesa Uranium Mill

Built in 1980, the White Mesa Uranium Mill is the last conventional uranium mill licensed in the United States. It is currently owned by Energy Fuels Resources, which purchased the mill in 2012 after selling the license for the defeated Piñon Ridge mill in Western Colorado. Located six miles south of Blanding, Utah, and adjacent to a Ute Mountain Ute Tribal community, White Mesa survived the worldwide crash in uranium processes by collecting and reprocessing radioactive waste from other facilities, generating toxic chemical byproducts that are disposed in on-site tailings impoundments with thin plastic liners. Nevertheless, the mill temporarily suspended processing in 2014, sending shock waves through the rural town of Blanding due to the loss of the plant’s 150 jobs and $1 million in annual county tax revenue.

The Ute Mountain Ute Nation has long opposed the mill, citing risks to the water, soil, plants, and animals on which the Ute people traditionally rely. Despite the Environmental Protection Agency’s desire to loosen current emissions standards, the Tribe independently monitors emissions from White Mesa impoundments and has found radon gas levels already far in excess of current thresholds. In 2012, the Tribe has unsuccessfully opposed overturning the mill’s license, pointing to the need for numerous upgrades and operational changes. Most recently, the Grand Canyon Trust filed a civil lawsuit against the mill for Clean Air Act violations in 2012 and 2013.


Grand Canyon Trust. "White Mesa Uranium Mill." Accessed July 31, 2020.

Minard, Anne. “Lawsuit Charges Mill with Violating Laws for Radon Releases, Open Pits.Four Corners Free Press, May 1, 2014. Accessed June 11, 2021.
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