History buffs recall vividly the Manhattan Project. But few know how Grand Junction and the surrounding areas were instrumental in the completion of that project.

In 1945-1946, Grand Junction and Durango were involved in uranium mining in order to refine enough uranium to make the bombs. While most of the uranium used in the project came from the Belgium Congo and Canada, some government and military officials demanded some of the uranium come from US sources, which is how Grand Junction and Durango became instrumental in the war effort, and how Uravan was created.

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Mining operations during the 30s in Grand Junction considered uranium ore as a useless waste product from the mining they were doing. But that was before nuclear fission was discovered. Once it was realized the tailings from this and other mills across the state contained high amounts of uranium, The MED (Manhattan Engineer District) began purchasing them from companies like the Vanadium Corporation of America, United States Vanadium and the Metals Reserve Co. During the two years leading up to the advancement of the project, mill tailings were purchased from places like Naturita, Slick Rock, Gateway, Durango, and Loma.

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The Durango Uranium mill was secretly set up specifically for the Manhattan Project, in order to refine the uranium that was found in the mill tailings. The uranium being refined here, and in Uravan, was shipped to Grand Junction. Refining continued for years after the war, and the remnants of those years are buried within the Durango Bodo Canyon disposal site. The DEA has put together a long-term surveillance plan to ensure the safety of the area's residents.

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In Uravan, a place that existed at one time as the Joe, Jr. mill, an entirely new town sprang up, including a movie theater, grocery store, a medical clinic, churches and a school. Officials there tried to make the workers feel less isolated, as the work being done was very secretive. The entire town was fenced off, with a guard shack serving as the only entry and exit point. The town was actually created by the United Vanadium Co. who combined uranium and vanadium in the naming of the town, as that was what was being mined there.

Western Colorado residents can take pride in the effort its people put forth to help win the war.