Few investors and analysts have a firm grasp of the length of time environmental studies and the approvals process requires. Having visited numerous investor forums, we realized many investors believe a property is drilled and then mined, after a brief permitting period. Quite the opposite is true, as explained to us by Richard Blubaugh, environmental manager for Powertech Uranium (PWURF). A highly respected environmental manager, Mr. Blubaugh got his start in government service before moving to private industry. We found the same governmental background with others of Mr. Blubaugh’s caliber, such as Strathmore Minerals’ Juan Velasquez and Uranerz Energy’s Glenn Catchpole.
Permitting a uranium mine requires more than a simple application to mine. And, as we discovered, the process can take between three and six years (sometimes even longer), costing several million dollars and requiring numerous scientific studies on a company’s property. This could add additional pressure to uranium prices.
StockInterview: After studying several company news releases, it appears one of the first environmental studies required is the archaeological survey. Why is that done before mining uranium?
Richard Blubaugh: The archaeological surveys are required to evaluate cultural, archaeological and paleontological resources. It’s necessary to do to in order to identify and protect those resources for the whole state—academia as well. You can’t really go out and disturb these areas without knowing what’s there, what might be valuable and what might not. The first thing is to identify a reputable and competent archaeologist or a group of archaeological professionals that have some standing with the regulatory community.
StockInterview: What does the consulting group do then?
Richard Blubaugh: They start with literature review, which would go through the records and see if any previous studies have been done in this area. Those studies are archived generally with the state archaeologists or historical preservation society. Then they determine best where to start and, in this case, we are asking them to start where our drill sites are located because we want to clear those sites so that we can go ahead and start our drilling activities. Then they will review the rest of the property. It could take anywhere from months to years depending upon what’s found in any given area.
StockInterview: What happens if you find something of historical interest?
Richard Blubaugh: If you find something, this doesn’t mean you are out of luck or your project is stopped. It just means that it’s going to take a little more time and effort to deal. It usually is a negotiated process under the Federal actions, a Section 106 consultation. If it’s determined to be eligible, then it requires more research and negotiation, which is often avoidance. You fence it off or somehow mark it and stay away from it. But if you have to disturb an area where there’s a cultural asset, then that requires mitigation through digging, identifying, recording, photographing and reporting on everything that’s found. Then, that stuff is often removed and archived in a museum.