Forest Service cleanup at Juniper Uranium Mine delayed

Chris Caskey, The Union Democrat

A long-term project to close a former uranium mine deep in the Stanislaus National Forest will take longer than expected because of weather, according to the National Forest Service.

Jerry Snyder, a spokesman for the Stanislaus National Forest, said this week that late-summer thunder showers near the crest of the Sierra Nevada mountains delayed some of the work to close the Juniper Uranium Mine. Crews have been working to close the open pit mine in the Emigrant Wilderness since last summer, with the project originally expected to wrap up this fall.

"They got some torrential rains up there this year," Snyder said. "That put us back far enough to where they had to make a decision."

Crews are securing the site, located at 8,500 feet of elevation, with drainage and erosion controls to last through the winter. That work is expected to finish by the end of this month, according to the Forest Service.

Next summer, crews will complete a cover system consisting of a plastic liner and complex fabric. They'll top that with three feet of clean soil. This year was spent returning the contaminated soil and material back into the 1,500-by-1,000 foot pit, according to the Forest Service.

The Juniper mine produced about 500 tons of uranium ore for nuclear power and weapons between 1956 and 1968. The heavy, radioactive material occurs naturally in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Forest Service officials have said the mine is too far removed from main roads for the material to pose a threat to residents. The Forest Service has also been actively monitoring the site.

The approximately $1.5 million project was authorized under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, also known as the Superfund.

The Union Democrat
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