The Cotter Timeline
1953 - Prospectors
find uranium in Fremont County, 35 miles northwest of Cañon
1954 - U.S. House of Representatives approves bill to facilitate
uranium mining on public lands in Utah, New Mexico, and Colorado.
- Cañon City Chamber of Commerce sends a mineral survey to
mining corporations to lure business to the area.
- Cotter Corp. founded in Roswell, N.M. The company moves a survey
branch to Cañon City.
1957 - Cotter signs a contract with the Atomic Energy Commission
for a uranium pilot mill south of Cañon City.
1958 - Cotter notifies the Atomic Energy Commission it will build
a pilot mill, with an initial capacity of processing 50 tons of
ore per day.
1958 - Construction completed in 63 days. The mill has a 72-ton
capacity and employs 35.
Aug. 14, 1958 - After processing 1,400 pounds of uranium oxide,
or yellow cake, from 500 tons of ore, Cotter sends its first shipment
to the AEC in Grand Junction.
1958 - Cotter's reaches full production capacity of 72 tons of ore
per day, but pushes the AEC for a 200-ton-per-day plant.
7, 1958 - The Cotter mill is formally dedicated.
August 1959 - After negotiations with the city, a new water line
is installed to the mill, meaning Cotter no longer has to haul in
50,000 gallons of water a day by tanker.
1959 - Construction begins on Cotter's $1.25 million expansion to
200 tons per day.
1960 - The AEC and Cotter sign a contract for a full-scale, 200-ton
- The AEC opens the uranium market up to private enterprise.
January 1965 - Cotter lays off 138 workers.
1965 - Cotter and two other uranium firms file suit against the
AEC for not allowing them to continue fulfilling government contracts
for another two years through the federal stretch-out program. Cotter
claims the AEC permitted it to operate at no more than 72 percent
capacity while other mills ran at 110 percent. The plaintiffs lose
their case and Cotter is forced to close its doors.
1966 - Cotter plans to reopen after negotiating to supply uranium
to several users. Also, the company buys the Schwartzwalder mine
near Golden as a direct source of ore for its mill.
- The mill adds a 100-ton-per-day acid leach circuit.
- Colorado becomes an "agreement state" and assumes responsibility
for regulating nuclear facilities from the AEC.
- Cotter receives up to 110,000 tons of tailings containing radioactive
residue from the Manhattan Project. The material is shipped to the
mill in open rail cars.
1970 - Cañon City Councilman Robert Benson accuses Cotter
of "serious air pollution."
13, 1970 - Residents establish a community Anti-Pollution Committee.
Jan. 19, 1970 - Canon City added to a list of Colorado cities that
will be examined to make sure uranium tailings haven't been used
as fill for houses.
- Cotter builds two lined tailings ponds covering more than 13 acres.
Also, the mill begins extracting molybdenum.
1974 - Electric giant Commonwealth Edison Co. of Chicago buys Cotter.
The plant has 81 people on its payroll.
1978 - The Colorado Department of Health discovers elevated levels
of uranium and possibly toxic chemicals that are associated with
milling in nearby aquifers.
1978 - Cotter's workforce numbers 148, second only to the state
prisons as an economic force in Cañon City. The mill is capable
of processing 400 tons of ore a day.
1979 - State health officials ignore EPA recommendations and renew
Cotter's operating license. Residents near Cotter and Lincoln Park
had asked for a two-year delay in the decision to allow the county
to vote on the matter.
- Cotter completes its new mill and begins transferring the contents
of its old, unlined tailings ponds into new, clay- and rubber-lined
1979 - The state permits Cotter to use its new facility, but will
continue to monitor groundwater contamination.
1980 - Federal Mine Health and Safety Administration cites Cotter
for vanadium poisoning but does not take any punitive measures.
1980 - Colorado Bureau of Investigations issues a report blasting
Cotter's safety record, but the company won't be prosecuted because
of a statute of limitations expiration.
1980 - Cañon City Citizens Committee for a Healthy Environment
meets for the first time.
- After a resident discovers radioactivity on property in Maywood,
N.J. the state, DOE and EPA conduct tests that confirm contamination
in excess of state and federal guidelines.
1983 - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency designates the Maywood
Chemical Co. and surrounding residetial areas in Bergen County,
N.J. as a Superfund site.
1983 - The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services releases
a health assessment of Lincoln Park saying 36 wells exceeded limits
for certain chemicals.
1983 - The Colorado Attorney General files a $50 million lawsuit
against Cotter, accusing the company of contaminating natural resources.
1984 - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency designates the Lincoln
Park area as a Superfund site.
1985 - Monitoring wells drilled in Lincoln Park to detect groundwater
1986 - Negotiations delay the State vs. Cotter trial.
1986 - State health officials announce that groundwater in Lincoln
Park is contaminated 12 to 17 times beyond safe drinking limits.
A Remedial Action Plan calls for Cotter to pay $11 million in fines
instead of the $50 million sought.
1987 - Cotter agrees to an out-of-court settlement in the state
1988 - Court approves Cotter clean-up plan.
1989 - Lincoln Park residents file a $550 million civil suit against
Cotter, asking for $300 million in actual damages and $200 million
in punitive damages. The suit also names the Atchison, Topeka &
Santa Fe Railway and seeks $50 million in damages for radioactive
spills at two loading sites in and south of Cañon City.
1990 - Judge Zita Weinshienk denies class-action status for the
suit from Lincoln Park residents.
- The $550 million case is settled. Five plaintiffs receive a judgment
in their favor. A few others settle out of court and the settlements
1998 - State health officials begin a review of Cotter's application
to renew its radioactive materials license.
1999 - Cotter outlines a new plan to stop leakage of contaminated
water under a flood-control dam.
2000 - City Council announces that it doesn't want the contaminated
waste from the Shattuck Superfund site in Denver.
2000 - La Jolla, Calif.-based General Atomics buys Cotter from the
Commonwealth Edison Co.
2000 - Cotter submits a bid to accept radioactive thorium tailings
from a Maywood, N.J. Superfund site.
31, 2000 - Cotter files with state health department for renewal
of its operating license.
2001 - Cañon City Chamber of Commerce names Cotter as its
business of the year.
- Dodge case decided against Cotter and $16 million, plus interest,
is awarded. Cotter appeals.
2002 - Cotter officials announces they will receive 270,000 tons
of Maywood waste.
2002 - The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment
cites Cotter with 16 violations of its license.
April 2002 - Gov. Bill Owens signs an emergency bill into law that
requires an environmental assessment and state health department
review before out-of-state radioactive waste can be shipped into
2002 - Cotter lays off 45 employees, nearly 40 percent of its workforce.
9, 2002 - State health department suspends Cotter from accepting
any more shipments of ore until violations are addressed.