Cost Analysis of Uranium Mining in New Mexico Shows No Economic Boon

In a response to the industry’s exaggerated claims that renewed uranium mining would be a multi-billion dollar economic bonanza for New Mexico and the Grants area, the Law Center commissioned Dr. Thomas M. Power to evaluate the true economic impacts of uranium mining in New Mexico. The result is the only independently reviewed analysis of the subject in New Mexico entitled An Economic Evaluation of a Renewed Uranium Mining Boom in New Mexico.

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Santa Fe, NM - As a result of a substantial increase in uranium prices between 2004 and 2008, uranium mining companies have shown increasing interest in New Mexico’s uranium reserves. Now these companies and other business interests are promoting renewed uranium mining as a multi-billion dollar economic bonanza for New Mexico and the Grants area.

The report carefully evaluates and challenges the uranium mining industry’s claims. It also explores the boom and bust cycles of metal mining and illustrates how New Mexico and the Grants area adjusted after the uranium mining bust of the 1980s. The report offers a conservative estimate of the upper end of the potential impact of a new uranium mining on employment, payroll, and state and local government revenues and considers the environmental and social costs that are not included in industry studies.

Some of the conclusions in the report are:

  - The primary economic driver in the McKinley and Cibola County area and in much of New Mexico is the natural environment. The natural environment provides amenities that attract and keep economic development in New Mexico and by risking widespread environmental contamination from renewed uranium mining; New Mexico may actually damage its economic foundation.

  - The $30 billion that industry claims would come to the state in a new round of uranium mining is a gross exaggeration based on a number of unrealistic and unsupported assumptions.

  - Important environmental and social costs must be considered when evaluating the commercial economic benefits of renewed uranium mining. Substantial natural resources, such as groundwater, have been irreparably contaminated by uranium mining and therefore cannot be considered as a resource to support future economic growth in the area. New Mexico and local communities will need to consider how mine and mill waste will be addressed.

“Dr. Power’s study confirms what many of us who’ve moved to New Mexico already know – that New Mexico’s natural beauty, clean air and water, and diverse environment make New Mexico a great place to live and work,” says Staff Attorney Eric Jantz. “When you destroy the environment with heavy industrial activity, the main reason many of us stay here is also destroyed.”

Dr. Thomas Michael Power, a Research Professor of Economics at the University of Montana, has studied extractive industries in the west for 20 years. He retired from teaching and administration in 2007. He served as Chairman of the Economics Department from 1977 to 2007 and has served on the faculty there since 1968. His fields of specialization are resource economics and regional economics.

The complete report is available at the New Mexico Environmental Law Center website in PDF format. Dr. Power’s report was reviewed by the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of New Mexico.


Posted by Juana Colon on 10/28/2008 • PermalinkBack to top