Colorado State University Students Complete Survey Study of Uranium Mining Concerns

Note to Editors: The survey results do not reflect the views of Colorado State University.

Colorado State University students conducted a survey this spring to gauge citizen concern and insights about the uranium mining operation proposed in northern Colorado.

During the 2008 spring semester, students in Colorado State’s Journalism and Technical Communication course, Communication and Evaluation Research Methods, undertook a class project to examine citizen concerns about the uranium mine proposed for the area between Nunn and Wellington, Colo.

The mail survey focused on details concerning how people perceive potential risks and benefits associated with the proposed mining operation. It also focused on how people view information that has been provided through the media and other channels by two high-profile sources on the issue, the Canadian company Powertech (USA) Mining Corp. and the citizen’s group, Coloradoans Against Resource Destruction.

Results showed that awareness of the proposed mining operation is nearly universal in the survey area.  Of the 205 survey responses from 450 randomly selected individuals, only 5 percent indicated that they had never heard of the issue. When asked if individuals had made their minds up on the issue one way or another, very few respondents were in favor of the mining operation, at 5 percent; about 20 percent reported they were undecided, while a majority, or 74 percent, said they were against it.

More than half of the respondents agreed that they need more information about the issue and cited newspapers has the most important source of information. Respondents also stated that they thought Coloradoans Against Resource Destruction was more credible and trustworthy than Powertech.

Respondents reported that the highest-rated potential benefits from the proposed mining operation were the support of national energy independence and the reduction of carbon emissions through nuclear energy.

In terms of specific concerns people had about the proposed mine, the most important risks identified were threats to home values, potential costs of future clean-up and water contamination. Respondents were less concerned about threats to existing businesses, industrial overdevelopment, rail and truck accidents and wind-borne materials.

The survey ultimately revealed that 84 percent of the people surveyed believed that the risks associated with the mine outweigh the benefits.

When asked about intentions to vote in a local or state election this year, 79 percent indicated that this mining issue will affect their voting choices.

The main communities included in the study were Wellington, Carr, Nunn, Ault and Pierce.

The project was designed primarily as a hands-on learning experience for students and was supported by the Institute for Learning and Teaching at CSU. Craig Trumbo, Colorado State faculty member oversaw the class project. The conduct of the survey was reviewed and approved for protection of human subjects by CSU’s Institutional Review Board. The margin of error for the study is about 7 percent.