Mining in the Grand Canyon is hardly a recent concept. The ruins of the Orphan Lode Mine remain standing where John Hogan and Henry Ward filed their claim in 1893. Their workings of a copper outcrop in the Coconino Sandstone about 1100 feet below present day Powell Point, on the South Rim, endure as a testament to man’s disregard for natural wonder. The ruins are situated just west of Grand Canyon Village, where the Orphan Mine tower is plainly visible. Uranium was discovered in the extracted ore and mined from 1953 to 1972. Content of uranium in ore shipments began with as little as four point nine percent and approached eighty percent in individual samples. The patented land was acquired by the U.S. National Park Service in 1963, but extraction rights were retained by the private operator until August 1988. Radioactive groundwater runoff from the Orphan Mine continues to contaminate feeder creeks to the Colorado River, causing the U.S. National Park Service to warn backpackers along the Tonto Trail not to use water from two different drainages. The National Park Service also specifically cautions against drinking and bathing in the Little Colorado River, Kanab Creek, and other Grand Canyon waters where excessive radionuclides have been found.
Arizona Governor Fife Symington was a fan of mining in the Canyon. He sought to turn the Grand Canyon into a state park, so he could surrender the property to mining interests. In 1995, a continuing federal budget crisis forebode the possibility of closing national parks. Under the guise of keeping the park open, and to allegedly prevent the loss of local revenue, Mr. Symington attempted a military coup at Grand Canyon National Park. A convoy of National Guard trucks, Arizona Department of Public Safety and state parks vehicles, along with a helicopter escort, arrived at Grand Canyon Airport, where the governor was met by Park Superintendent Rob Arnberger. Governor Symington held a half-hour press conference. Mr. Symington and the park superintendent retired to a private room to discuss the governor’s intentions, where the governor commented, “I’m not here to see the canyon. I’m here to take it over.” Not unprepared for such behaviour from a notoriously capricious and conceited governor, Mr. Arnberger replied, “The U.S. Attorney’s office has already informed us that such a take-over would be illegal.” In anticipation of the governor’s intentions, the U.S. attorney in Arizona had begun preparing a request for a Temporary Restraining Order. Mr. Symington smugly responded, “It may be illegal, but who will sue us?”
Backed by National Guard troops, and brandishing a propaganda campaign intended to force the National Park administration to surrender to his authority, Arizona Governor Fife Symington’s ambitions were stymied simply by his lack of authority. Ridiculed in an editorial cartoon in the Arizona Republic, Mr. Symington was depicted as a Civil War-era, saber-wielding officer mounted on a horse at the park’s entrance gate, where a park ranger declared, “I don’t care who you are, Mr. Most Excellent Exalted Son of the Morning Poohbah Fifemaster the Third, or whoever. The park is closed.” Symington’s hubris was astounding.
Representatives Gosar, Franks, and Flake need to be reminded of the morbidity and mortality associated with uranium mining among the Navajo people. This is a population with horrific cancer and leukemia rates, which, prior to uranium mining in World War Two, had none. Perhaps the Representatives don’t care. Perhaps the Havasupai tribe in the floor of the Canyon, like the Navajo people, are just expendable: collateral damage. Perhaps Mr. Gosar shares the opinion of his dental colleague from Alaska, David Eichler, that native tribes have poor health due to ignorance and just need to die out.
The Church Rock disaster should stand as a sobering warning to anyone even remotely considering the possibility of uranium mining near the Grand Canyon. If the unexpected breaching of a dam, holding back the waters of a pond contaminated by Uranium tailings, can wreak such havoc that it becomes the single most devastating nuclear accident in U.S. history, the notion of a similarly contaminated Colorado River, its ecosystem, and the aquifer which is the source of drinking water for roughly 27 million people, including Las Vegas and Los Angeles, should absolutely rule out the idea of uranium mining near the Grand Canyon for any prudent, sentient being. Coconino County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution opposing uranium development in the vicinity of Grand Canyon National Park and calling for Congress to place federal land near the Canyon off-limits to new mining activity. Such an action renders Mr. Gosar’s insistence that mining would create jobs a non sequitor. Clearly, the local population would prefer to find other means of employment. The Metropolitan Water District of Los Angeles and the Southern Nevada Water Authority have also expressed their serious concerns about radioactive contamination of the entire Colorado River if uranium mining is permitted in areas surrounding the Grand Canyon. Uranium mining will deplete water availability in the canyon, as well as irradiate it, as wells are drilled and springs are tapped to support drilling and extraction, and to provide potable water for associated daily living and sanitation needs. Such an act would render moot the concept of potable water for mining support operations. Potable water will need to be imported from other locations.
Mining the Grand Canyon is a multinational operation, carried out by foreign mining companies and selling the hazardous product to foreign nations, with the leavings going to the US. It is not a matter of national security, nor is it a matter of ensuring American energy independence. It is only a matter of making huge amounts of money for a very small minority of already astronomically wealthy people. This is to occur at a known sacrifice of local populations and decimation of the environment of an internationally recognised geologic wonder. If this weren’t enough of a horror, factor in contaminated drinking water needed by tens of millions of people. Treason is the levying of war against the United States, or in adhering to its enemies, giving aid to them. The willful poisoning of millions of citizens and the annihilation of a pristine environment for monetary gain is an act of war against the United States. Aiding foreign corporations contemplating this act is treason. Any politician who willfully encourages uranium mining in the Grand Canyon should be arrested and tried for treason, as should their accomplices. Anyone ignorantly supporting politicians who encourage uranium mining in the Grand Canyon should have their sanity and intelligence questioned, be declared incompetent, and lose the right to vote.
- The Glowing Hogan (part two) (hernespeaks.wordpress.com)
- A magical detour to the Grand Canyon (maggiephotgraphy.wordpress.com)
- Hiking the Grand Canyon (haikutravelers.com)
- What’s so Grand about this Canyon? (ask.metafilter.com)