Uranium prices are rising. Since 2006, the value of uranium has superbly accelerated, resulting in enormous profits for investors. Thousands of claims have been filed in the area surrounding the Grand Canyon. If developed, these claims will generate toxic wastes endangering an enormous aquifer, the source of drinking water for over 27 million people and the Grand Canyon ecosystem in general. Cities, including Las Vegas, Bullhead City, Laughlin, Los Angeles, Yuma, and Phoenix will be directly impacted. Toxic waste from uranium tailings will enter groundwater seepage and flow into the Colorado River from feeder streams and watersheds. US Geological Survey data in 2010 found wells and aquifers were already contaminated by previous mining activity to the north of Grand Canyon. Corruption of the Colorado River by uranium mining at the Grand Canyon means not only fouling of drinking water, but elimination of agriculture and any industry which depends upon water. The Southwest will be a nuclear wasteland.
The Obama administration has taken important steps in extending a moratorium on new uranium mining claims in a million-acre buffer zone around the Grand Canyon. More than 60 Democrats, led by Rep. Raul Grijalva sent a letter requesting Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to withdraw 1 million acres surrounding the Grand Canyon from uranium mining for 20 years to halt new mining claims. Secretary Salazar demonstrated his conservation leadership by directing the Bureau of Land Management to select the full withdrawal of 1 million acres at the edge of the Grand Canyon National Park from any future uranium mining claims as the administration’s “preferred alternative”, setting the stage for the full twenty year withdrawal, as it continues work on a last Environmental Impact Statement. However, in a portentous motion, the United States Forest Service approved existing claims for drilling uranium at as many as 39 sites near the Grand Canyon’s south rim, foreboding what could present the start of a rush to extract the hazardous mineral in proximity to the renowned National Park. A British firm, VANE Minerals, acquired these approvals. VANE issued a news release about the drilling sites near the Canyon suggesting that it will seek more permission soon. To worsen the scenario, the Forest Service specifically excluded these projects from public and environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act. Quaterra Resources, a Canadian firm, proposed to drill exploratory holes for uranium on claims just north of the Canyon. Plans for the operation include constructing a helicopter pad. Legal action is imperative to stop these events from happening.
In spite of the fact a moratorium in establishing new mining claims in proximity to the Grand Canyon would have little effect on the country’s uranium supply, since most of it comes from Wyoming and New Mexico, the usual complaints from mining lobbyists and their Congressional allies have occurred. Representative Jeff Flake has threatened to use the Interior Appropriations Bill to block Mr. Salazar. Congressmen Paul Gosar and Trent Franks have worked to overturn any ban on mining uranium. Mr. Gosar said the decision to prohibit new mining claims on federal land surrounding the Grand Canyon “locks up 1 million acres of public lands and would undermine U.S. energy independence. The move to put this uranium off-limits to new mining reduces potential employment and works against plans to increase nuclear power in the United States,” Mr. Gosar continued, “The uranium found in these areas represents some of the best, high-grade ore bodies in the world and it is important the U.S. uses domestic resources to meet its growing demand.” Mr. Gosar’s office has stated that most of the mined uranium would stay in-country, and his office cites federal regulations limiting exports of uranium unless approved by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and ultimately the president. However, current uranium mining involves shipping the mineral to Canada and France for enrichment after which some of it might be shipped to U.S. power plants. Denison Mines, the only active uranium mining operation in northern Arizona, signed an agreement in 2009 to sell 20 percent of its company and hundreds of thousands of pounds of refined uranium to South Korea’s utility, the Korea Electric Power Company. U.S. utilities and traders will buy some of the rest. So much for Congressman Gosar’s claim for domestic needs being answered by domestic production.
- The Glowing Hogan (part one) (hernespeaks.wordpress.com)
- What’s so Grand about this Canyon? (ask.metafilter.com)
- AZ Grants Grand Canyon – area Permits to Uranium Mining Co. (indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com)