Grand Canyon uranium mining set to go ahead despite ban from Obama
Uranium mining on the doorstep of the Grand Canyon national park is set to go ahead in 2015 despite a ban imposed last year by Barack Obama.
Energy Fuels Resources has been given federal approval to reopen its old Canyon Mine, located six miles south of the canyon’s popular South Rim entrance, that attracts nearly 5 million visitors a year.
The Canadian company says that the Obama administration’s ban on new hard-rock mining over 1m acres doesn’t apply because its rights date from when it closed over 20 years ago.
However, its approval is based on an environmental study the US Forest Service conducted more than 25 years ago, in 1986.
Several environment groups – including the Grand Canyon Trust, the Sierra Club and the Centre for Biological Diversity – and the Havasupai tribe filed suit in March against the Forest Service, arguing that the study is badly outdated.
Curtis H Moore, a spokesman for Energy Resources, disagrees. “The Forest Service looked at that review with modern eyes and determined that it’s adequate. And 1986 was not that long ago. These are tiny mines – about 20 acres.”
But Clark argues that uranium’s radioactive properties only become dangerous once it is brought up out of the ground and exposed to air and water. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, such properties include radon gas, a substance that was not regulated when the government conducted its initial study of the mine in 1986. The lawsuit contends that radon and other chemicals could pollute the area.
In addition to environmental impacts, the lawsuit argues that the mine will harm the nearby area of Red Butte, which is sacred to the Havasupai, one of the plaintiffs, as well as other tribes, including the Hopi, Zuni and Navajo.
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