Forbes staff writer Christopher Helman’s story titled “Energy’s Latest Battleground: Fracking For Uranium” is “riddled with errors and fails to adhere to the most basic standards of balanced reporting in unjustly maligning Uranium Energy Corp through vital omissions of relevant fact and comment by regulatory and scientific authorities who certainly should have been consulted for this article,” according to a statement sent to the Advance-Guard by UEC Chief Executive Officer Amir Adnani.
An email request by the Advance-Guard to interview Helman for comment was not answered.
In the story, Helman quotes Houston attorney Jim Blackburn, who has filed an appeal on behalf of Goliad County residents in the Fifth Circuit Court of New Orleans, protesting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s recent granting of an aquifer exemption to UEC.
“By design, it’s much worse than fracking,” Blackburn is quoted as saying. “This is intentional contamination of a water aquifer liberating not only uranium but other elements that were bound up with the sand. We know the process will contaminate water; that’s the whole point of it."
Adnani said Helman’s story was misleading and included several factual errors.
“Helman interviewed none of these qualified and vital sources in the instance of Uranium Energy Corp’s in-situ uranium mining activities in South Texas,” Adnani said. “For support of his false thesis, he relies on a Houston-based, environmental activist lawyer who, as it happens, is currently suing the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality on the groundwater issue (the article errs in stating that this suit is against Uranium Energy Corp, one of several errors in the piece).
“Helman also fails to state that this issue has already been intensively litigated since 2006 and the lawyer for the plaintiffs has repeatedly lost (now 0 for 5) on all counts. We fundamentally attribute this to the fact that, in numerous prior hearings, extensive investigations, and objective scientific findings, Uranium Energy Corp has been seen to uphold the highest standards of uranium mining and aquifer protection.
UEC spokesperson Matt Welch told the Advance-Guard that Blackburn is not an authority in hydrology and has previously worked for another uranium company recently in neighboring Bee County.
“Jim Blackburn is an environmental activist attorney, not a hydrologist and he is misinformed about uranium production,” Welch said in a statement to the Advance-Guard. “The TCEQ (Texas Commission on Environmental Quality) and the EPA have rejected his groundless arguments on numerous occasions because they are not based in fact.
“The experts who study this issue on a daily basis have concluded that the ISR (in-situ recovery) process for uranium recovery is safe, and there has never been a documented case of groundwater contamination by this process. Mr. Blackburn’s work on behalf of another uranium company in Bee County further underscores his disingenuousness.”
The Advance-Guard tried to reach Blackburn, but did not receive a reply from him last week after leaving a voicemail at his Rice University office and emailing him for an interview.
Adnani even questioned the accuracy of the headline for the story.
“Comparing in-situ recovery of uranium to ‘fracking for uranium’ is nonsensical and raises the question about the future direction of Forbes’ intent regarding journalistic honesty,” Adnani said. “These are two entirely different technologies.
“Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” refers to the procedure, widely used in the oil and gas sector, for creating fractures in rock formations by injecting fluids under high pressure into fissures to force them to open further, allowing more oil and gas to flow out of the rock formation and into the well bore. In-situ recovery is a mining process that allows the extraction of strategic metals (uranium, copper) that are water-soluble by drilling a series of vertical wells into the ore deposit. In-situ recovery methods are responsible for over 30% of uranium production globally. Fracking is not permitted, nor desired by the industry, because uranium is hosted in sandstone deposits that are extremely permeable in comparison to shales and clays. Fracking a shallow sandstone aquifer has never been conducted in the industry, and would make no sense.”
Adnani also challenged Helman’s objectivity.
“Aside from Helman’s poorly informed assessment of the aquifer in Goliad County, he goes out of his way to belittle UEC and the company’s chairman, Alan Lindsay,” Sdnani said. “We did, for example, report Chairman Lindsay’s involvement with several successful companies to the reporter, all of which were omitted. Yet he managed to fit in obviously biased remarks from a previously convicted short-seller.
“The reporter calls UEC a ‘pip-squeak’ and an ‘unknown company.’ This is an obvious break from objective journalistic acumen. In fact, UEC is covered by six independent energy analysts, is broadly held by institutions, and was covered as an up-and-upcoming company by Forbes itself in 2010.”
The story can be read in its entirety at http://www.forbes.com/sites/christopherhelman/2013/01/23/fracking-for-uranium/.