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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Remember Goliad?

Posted By on Tue, Jan 29, 2008 at 12:00 AM

What can I say? The day grows shaggy. The chair too stiff. And even public hearing aficionados start to talk trash: So, apologies in advance to any person of reasonable (or noble, even) character I besmudge in this week’s review of the uranium mining hearing down Goliad way.

So let me talk at you a scant blogo-minute to set a couple important items (in my sincerest impartial moderator tone) straight.

Uranium Energy Corp’s record is blemished, despite company officials’ reassessment of their regulatory history at last Thursday’s public hearing in Goliad. As it turned out, the confessions of UEC Director Harry Anthony were more telling than any possible denial he could offer.

See, the company had only just started making its mark on Goliad terra firm with a few hundred boreholes proudly littering the landscape when the Texas Railroad Commission showed up.

As we wrote in October:

Responding to complaints by Goliad County residents and a letter from Blackburn, the Railroad Commission found that the company had not plugged the majority of its hundreds of boreholes as they had told state regulators.

GPS coordinates supplied by UEC didn’t lead to any holes, either, confusing inspectors. “The holes that were located were found because there was some surface indication of the borehole location, not because they were at the exact coordinates provided,” the inspection report reads.

“Surface indication” turned out to mean piles of radioactive tailings, drilling fluids, and soils left exposed on the open ground. Of the 117 boreholes checked, only 14 had been plugged – and these were either plugged too deep or too close to the surface to protect groundwater supplies.

Gamma-radiation survey results didn’t surprise the RRC’s surface-mining director. Melvin Hodgkiss wrote on May 9 that the discovery of elevated radioactivity “confirms our previous visual observation and determination that drilling mud/cuttings were left on or near the surface at some drill sites.”

About 22 percent of the sites tested were found to be higher in radioactivity than natural background levels. Elevated radiation levels were minimal, Hodgkiss wrote, “relative to the land area disturbed … and not sufficient to pose a radiation exposure hazard.”

Anthony, responding to repeated statements of his numerous violations, allowed only that “There was a little bit of a housekeeping problem out there. We took care of that.”

As to ongoing problems at uranium mining operations in Kleburg County, Anthony bravely owned up to his role there, stating he had already left the company by the time the public began complaining about the state allowing Uranium Resources Inc. to expand mining operations before cleaning up the mess in the aquifer.

“I wasn’t involved,” he said.

Many complained at the meeting that the whole event had been engineered simply for another pitch to potential stockholders. Low and behold, optimistic statements on the company’s exploratory progress went up today at StockQuote via RediNews:

Uranium Energy Corp Announces Progress With Drilling at Its Goliad Project

Uranium Energy Corp (AMEX:UEC)(FRANKFURT: U6Z)(BERLIN: U6Z) announces continuing development at the Company's Goliad Project in Texas. Notable developments include:

- Continuing success with step-out drilling that is increasing the extent of known mineralized trends in both B and D Sands at Goliad;

- Ongoing drilling to support the permitting process, extensive coring program; and

- Addition of quality technical personnel at the project site.

And what about all that extra security at the meeting?

The state's moderator said she has never seen so much security at any similar public hearing. We have Anthony’s attorney, Monica Holmes, to thank for this, I’m told. Holmes placed a call to the Texas Rangers, according to Goliad County Sheriff Robert De La Garza. The Rangers kicked it down to Highway Patrol, and a security detail made of state troopers, sheriff’s deputies, and constables blocked off the street in front of the meeting hall.

The older crowd was none too pleased with the unexpected walk.

“They are trying to make them look like radicals,” Goliad Commissioner Jim Kreneck told me before the meeting.

I tried hard, but I only spotted a handful of traditional “tree-hugger” types in that crowd of roughly 400. Unless the new radical chic is South Texas ranchland fashion...

Maybe that was probably the problem.

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