by Roger Clark, Director of Grand Canyon Program
Beginning in 2006, the price for uranium began to rise. As a result, thousands of new claims were filed within watersheds that drain directly into Grand Canyon National Park and the Colorado River (see map). A Canadian-owned company reopened the White Mesa Mill in Blanding, Utah, and began processing uranium for powering nuclear reactors in South Korea and France. The U.S. Forest Service began permitting exploratory drilling for uranium without requiring an environmental assessment. The Bureau of Land Management moved to allow uranium mines that were abandoned by previous owners during the 1980s without requiring any revisions to outdated environmental assessments.
The following summarizes some of the actions, events, and articles that are shaping the future of uranium mining on public land surrounding Grand Canyon National Park.
Grand Canyon Trust begins to develop strategic plan in response to increased uranium mining activities in Grand Canyon watersheds.
August 1. Environmental Working Group releases study on uranium mining threats to national parks.
Dec. 20. Kaibab National Forest approves Vane Minerals “plans of operations” for exploratory drilling on uranium targets on the Tusayan Ranger District.
Feb. 7. “Uranium Exploration Near Grand Canyon;” New York Times article.
February 11. Citing widespread public opposition and a flawed environmental review, the Center for Biological Diversity, Grand Canyon Trust, and Sierra Club send letter requesting that the Kaibab National Forest withdraw approval of up to 39 new uranium-exploration drilling sites immediately south of Grand Canyon National Park.
Feb. 21. “Mining near Grand Canyon a radioactive idea;” AZ Daily Star editorial.
March 2. “A Grand Place to Mine;” Pew Environment Group and Environmental Working Group editorial.
March 17. Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva introduces the Grand Canyon Watersheds Protection Act (H.R. 5583). Arizona Game & Fish Commission letter to Senator John McCain expressing concern about uranium mining around the Grand Canyon.
March 24. Grand Canyon Trust, Center for Biological Diversity, and Sierra Club file for temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against Kaibab National Forest approval of plans of operations for exploratory uranium drilling.
March 25. Metropolitan Water District of Southern California sends letter to Secretary Kempthorne expressing concerns about uranium mining in the Grand Canyon vicinity.
March 28. Joint Subcommittee Oversight Field Hearing on “Community Impacts of Proposed Uranium Mining near Grand Canyon National Park” in Flagstaff, AZ. Testimony by Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley and Southwest Research and Information Service scientist Chris Schuey. “Mining, Indian leaders disagree on uranium mining effects;” Tucson Citizen story.
March 28. “As Uranium Firms Eye N.M., Navajos Wary;” Washington Post story.
March 30. “We know the drill;” Arizona Republic editorial.
April 4. Federal court hearing on GCT, SC, CBD complaint against USFS & Vane Minerals on Categorical Exclusion for exploratory drilling on Tusayan District of Kaibab National Forest.
April 10. United States District Judge Mary Murguia grants plaintiff’s motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to halt uranium drilling on Kaibab National Forest.
April 21. “Standing United;” Indian Country Today story.
May 14. “Uranium Mine Permits Denied;”AZ Daily Sun story.
May 26. “Uranium: It’s worse than you think;” High Country News editorial.
June 5. House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Legislative Hearing on H.R. 5583 Grand Canyon Watersheds Protection Act. Testimony by former Grand Canyon Superintendent Rob Arnberger and Grand Canyon Trust Air & Energy Director Roger Clark.
June 16. Southern Nevada Water Authority sends letter to Secretary Kempthorne expressing concerns about uranium mining in the Grand Canyon vicinity.
June 25. U.S. House of Representative’s Committee on Natural Resources votes 20-2 in favor of a resolution that requires the Secretary to withdraw public lands surrounding Grand Canyon from new uranium claims and exploration. “Mining Halted near Grand Canyon;” Associated Press story.
June 27. “Resolution saves canyon from mining — for a while;” AZ Daily Star editorial.
July 16. Letter from Nick Rahall, Chairman Committee on Natural Resources to Interior Secretary Kempthorne regarding the Committee on Natural Resources’ emergency withdrawal resolution.
Aug. 19. “Do uranium mines belong near Grand Canyon?” Christian Science Monitor story.
Aug. 20. “Uranium Claims Inundate Canyon;” Fall Advocate article.
Sept. 26. Plaintiff’s reach a settlement agreement with the United States Forest Service and VANE Minerals, requiring the agency to prepare an environmental impact statement before exploratory drilling on the Kaibab National Forest can continue.
Sept. 29. Grand Canyon Trust, Center for Biological Diversity, and Sierra Club Grand Canyon Chapter file lawsuit against Secretary of Interior Dirk Kempthorne for authorizing uranium exploration near Grand Canyon National Park in defiance of a congressional resolution prohibiting such activities across 1 million acres of public lands in watersheds surrounding the Park.
Oct. 1. “Grand Canyon no place for uranium mining;” AZ Daily Star editorial.
Oct. 13. “Mining ban should stay;” AZ Republic editorial.
Oct. 14. “With McCain’s Tacit Approval, Bush Rushes to Open Grand Canyon to Toxic Uranium Mining;” Think Progress story.
Oct. 18. “Saving the Desert Southwest;” Tom Kenworthy Washington Post editorial.
Oct. 21. New Mexico Senator Jeff Bingaman sends letter to Secretary Kempthorne in strong opposition to a proposed rule to remove regulations allowing emergency withdrawals of public lands from mineral development.
Oct. 25. “The Grand Canyon in Peril;” Roger Clark Washington Post letter to the editor.
Nov. 23. “The Fight: Uranium Drilling at Canyon;” AZ Republic, story.
Dec. 4. In defiance of the June 25th emergency resolution by Congress, Secretary of the Interior Kempthorne announces plans to finalize a new rule that eliminates a regulatory provision requiring the Bureau of Land Management to withdraw lands from mining when Congress determines that there is an emergency situation requiring immediate action. However, it is not implemented before the Obama administration takes office.
May 6. “BLM authorizes Grand Canyon uranium exploration;” NYT story.
June 27. “Company seeks uranium mine permit near Grand Canyon;” AP story.
July 20. Secretary Salazar visits the Grand Canyon and announces two-year “Time-Out” from new mining claims on watersheds surrounding Grand Canyon National Park. “Ban Set on Mining Claims Adjacent to Grand Canyon;” New York Times story, “137 Years Later;” NYT editorial.
July 21. House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands legislative hearing on H.R. 644; testimony by Grand Canyon Trust Executive Director Bill Hedden, Havasupai Vice Chairman Matthew Putesoy, and UNLV professor Dave Kreamer.
July 22. “Interior efforts protect public;” AZ Republic editorial.
July 23-25. Protest at Red Butte. “Nearly 300 people, including approximately 150 Havasupai people who traveled from their homes in Supai Village, gathered at Red Butte to participate in ceremonies and strategy sessions to stop uranium mining near Grand Canyon. Other supporters from Hualapai, Hopi, Kaibab Paiute, Paiute, and Navajo communities attended as well.” Please see Censored News blogspot.
July 22. “Uranium mining at canyon: Interior efforts protect public;” AZ Republic editorial.
Aug. 14. President Obama and family visit the Grand Canyon.
September 3. Hualapai Tribal Council resolution passes in support of Secretary Salazar’s proposed mineral withdrawal.
Sept. 9. GCT and partners file notice of intent to sue BLM over ESA violations connected to uranium mining.
Oct. 15. Flagstaff Scoping Meeting. “Instead of providing written comments, Havasupai elders decided to voice their support for the protective action by praying, drumming, and singing in the middle of the meeting room.” From “Uprising at Red Butte;” Grand Canyon Trust Advocate article.
Nov. 16. Center for Biological Diversity, Grand Canyon Trust, and Sierra Club file suit in an Arizona federal court challenging the Bureau of Land Management’s approval of the restart of Arizona 1, a defunct uranium mine just north of Grand Canyon National Park.
Jan. 14. Uranium mining resumes at Arizona 1 mine, north of Grand Canyon. “Employees working for Denison Mines began removing high-grade ore at the Arizona 1 mine north of the Grand Canyon in late December, according to the company’s president, and trucking it to a mill near Blanding, Utah. Arizona Daily Sun story.
April 8. Congressional field hearing entitled “On the Edge: Challenges Facing Grand Canyon National Park,” convened by House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands and Subcommittee on Water and Power. Testimony by Havasupai tribal council member Carletta Tilousi, Navajo river guide Nikki Cooley, Grand Canyon Trust executive director Bill Hedden, and NAU professor Abe Springer. Please see news coverage of the hearing.
May 3. The Environmental Protection Agency notifies Denison Mines Corporation that its Arizona 1 mine, located 35 miles from Fredonia, Arizona, has been issued a violation for emissions that violate the Clean Air Act.
May 10. Grand Canyon Trust organizes trip with the Havasupai Chairwoman and three council members to Washington, DC to meet with key sponsors of the Grand Canyon Watersheds Protection Act in the House, potential Senate sponsors, and agency officials in EPA and DOI.
July 8. Videos of Miners and Spinmeisters. BBC reporter Leana Hosea visits the Grand Canyon Trust while researching stories about the resurgence of uranium mining in the Grand Canyon region. Video interviews: Uranium miners and Denison Executive Vice President Harold Roberts: Part 1 ; Part 2; Part 3 ; Part 4.
July 12. Conservation groups and Native American tribes appeal a federal court decision that denied a request to halt uranium mining just six miles north of Grand Canyon National Park. The appeal filed with the Ninth District Court of Appeals challenged a lower court’s June 17 decision on the groups’ request for a preliminary injunction at the Arizona 1 uranium mine.
Sept. 23. Judy Pasternak, formerly an environmental writer for the Los Angeles Times, publishes her new book, Yellow Dirt: An American Story of a Poisoned Land and a People Betrayed .
Nov. 5. As a British mining company is pushing ahead with plans to re-start uranium mining in the Grand Canyon area, Ecologist investigation reveals communities in the Navajo reservation are still suffering the effects of uranium mining today.
Dec. 1. Arizona Department of Environmental Quality hosts several public meetings to permit three uranium mines within Grand Canyon watersheds. Please see news video featuring Trust interview on upcoming meetings.
Dec. 1. Action Alert: Help Ban New Uranium Claims!
Dec. 7. Responding to requests from the Grand Canyon Trust, Flagstaff City Council passes a resolution supporting Secretary of Interior Salazar’s proposed 20-year ban on new mining claims on one million acres of federal lands surrounding Grand Canyon National Park.
Dec. 25. Flagstaff Mayor Sara Presler’s letter-to-the-editor, in support of the moratorium is printed in the Arizona Republic.
Jan. 6. Arizona Department of Environmental Quality hosts information meeting in Flagstaff. “Diné environmentalists on Jan. 6 joined a chorus of about 60 area citizens who spoke against issuing air and water quality permits for new uranium mines near the rim of the Grand Canyon, with one calling the hearing an ‘insult.” Navajo Times article.
Jan. 18. Grand Canyon Trust and allies submit comments on uranium permits to Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ).
Jan. 19. “Concerns raised over proposed uranium mines, ore transport,” Gallup Independent story.
Jan. 31. Northern Arizona legislators send letter expressing their concern over proposed uranium mining near Grand Canyon National Park in a letter to the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) after the agency was unable to quell public concerns at a recent ADEQ presentation in Flagstaff.
Feb. 17. The Department of the Interior releases Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) and is “seeking public comment on a proposal to withdraw lands in the Grand Canyon watershed that would affect uranium and other hardrock mineral development in that area.” Grand Canyon Trust and allies’ press release.
March 7. “The Grand Canyon Uranium Rush;” New York Times editorial.
March 8. Public meeting in Flagstaff on DEIS produces protest. “Feds get feedback on Grand Canyon uranium mining;” National Public Radio story.
March 10. Grand Canyon Trust offers in-depth background information to assist public in commenting on the Draft EIS for the proposed mineral withdrawal.
March 11. The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster is triggered by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami. Uranium prices drop by about 35 percent, but not enough to make uranium mining around the Grand Canyon unprofitable.
March 23. Report by Elliot D. Pollack & Company raises substantive questions about the accuracy of economic information contained in the draft EIS regarding the economic impact of uranium mining in northern Arizona near Grand Canyon.
March 26. Benefit concert in Flagstaff to stop Grand Canyon uranium mining.
March 29. Broad-based support builds for 1 million acre withdrawal at Grand Canyon. Please see: Cottonwood Mayor Diane Joens, State Representative Tom Chabin, Sedona Chamber of Commerce, and Sustainable Economic Development Initiative.
April 4. The Arizona Game and Fish Commission endorses “a U.S. Department of the Interior proposal to withdraw more than 1 million acres surrounding the Grand Canyon from mining for the next 20 years;” Cronkite News story.
April 6. “As owners of two Flagstaff-based Grand Canyon river rafting outfitters, we strongly support Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s ban on new uranium claims on 1 million acres around Grand Canyon National Park;” Arizona Daily Sun letter to the editor.
April 8. “Report challenges economic impact of Grand Canyon uranium mining;” Gallup Independent story.
April 14. Support for uranium mining ban swells as Interior Department extends DEIS comment period.
April 14 “Arizona Trout Unlimited State Council supports Alternative B — withdrawal of 1,010,776 acres of federal locatable mineral estate be withdrawn for 20 years from operation of the Mining Law, subject to valid existing rights.”
April 20. “Time to lift ban on uranium mining near Grand Canyon? Deadline nears;” Christian Science Monitor story.
April 26. New video is released urging protection of Grand Canyon with narration by Craig Childs and interviews with Professor Dave Kraemer.
April 29. “Uranium Mining in the Southwest: Legacies of a Poisoned Past, Possibilities for Future Policy.” Symposium at Northern Arizona University with author Judy Pasternak and Grand Canyon Trust program associate Hertha Woody.
April 30. “Uranium mining and Grand Canyon,” Salt Lake Tribune op-ed by Grand Canyon rafting guide Walker Mackay.
May 4. Grand Canyon Trust, Center for Biological Diversity, Grand Canyon Wildlands Council and Sierra Club Grand Canyon Chapter submit Grand Canyon uranium mining DEIS comments on Draft EIS for proposed withdrawal.
May 4. Arizona Game and Fish Department submits comments Grand Canyon uranium mining.
June 6. A full-page ad is printed in the New York Times, featuring an open letter from 50 statesmen, scholars and conservation leaders and urging a 20-year extension of a one-million-acre mining buffer around Grand Canyon National Park. Please see story.
June 6. “As decision on Grand Canyon mining nears, sides line up;” McClatchy Newspapers story.
June 7. Nevada, California, Arizona water providers express concerns about Grand Canyon area uranium mining.
June 8. Former Interior Secretary Babbitt takes Obama Administration to task on conservation issues in speech at the National Press Club, Washington, DC.
June 30. Congressman Grijalva says conservation wins a big one at Grand Canyon.
July 5. “We will attempt to strike language that allows new uranium mining near Grand Canyon National Park.” House Appropriations Committee Ranking Democratic Member Rep. Norm Dicks says current bill the worst Interior & Environment Appropriations bill in 35 years of service on the Subcommittee.
July 12. Tourism businesses and sportsmen see economic threat in congressional effort to overturn protections for national park.
July 12. “Keep the ban on uranium mines;” Arizona Republic editorial.
July 13. Sparks fly over Grand Canyon rider at House approps markup.
July 18. As bid to overturn Grand Canyon uranium ban moves ahead, opponents step up.
July 20. “Bill at odds with nation’s values;” AZ Republic editorial.
July 22. “Republicans should quit trying to roll back uranium mining moratorium;” Las Vegas Sun editorial.
July 26. Arizona Congressmen Grijalva and Pastor speak out on behalf of protecting Grand Canyon. See video.
July 27. Congressman Grijalva says GOP lawmakers have Canyon under siege.
July 29. “Gosar, Franks on wrong tack;” AZ Republic editorial.
Aug. 5. “GOP vs. Mother Nature;” Los Angeles Times editorial.
Aug. 9. “Fight Over Mining Near Grand Canyon, Other Riders Will Return After Recess,”New York Times editorial.
Aug. 19. Grand Canyon Under Siege: “Arizona congressman Jeff Flake is leading an extraordinary assault on the Grand Canyon.”
Sept. 14. Report: “The Economic Importance of National Monuments to Local Communities.”
Sept. 20. Congressman Ed Markey (D-MA) speaks out against Grand Canyon uranium mining at DC hearing. Watch video.
Sept. 22. More than 200 local business leaders send postcards to Interior Secretary citing economic benefits from protecting Grand Canyon.
Oct. 12. “A group of Republican lawmakers is introducing legislation to stop the
Obama administration from blocking new mining claims around the Grand Canyon;” E&E News story.
Oct. 12. Congressman Grijalva challenges authors of Grand Canyon mining bill: “The only people who support this are mining industry lobbyists…”
Oct. 12. GOP “job killer plan” assaults Grand Canyon tourism industry.
Oct. 14. “The mining proposal here won’t create enough jobs to impact American or Arizonan unemployment…. The mining companies are the only winners in this;” Prescott Courier editorial.
Oct. 18. “More uranium mining near Canyon a bad idea;” Arizona Republic editorial.
Oct. 24. Please call White House before Oct. 28 and urge support for Grand Canyon uranium mining ban.
Oct. 27. Arizona Congressman Raul M. Grijalva praises BLM recommendation to protect Grand Canyon area from mining claims.
Oct. 30. “Buffering the Grand Canyon;” Douglas Brinkley, New York Times op-ed.
Nov. 1. Congressman Grijalva says “Do not believe GOP Grand Canyon uranium mining claims.”
Nov. 3. Hearing by Subcommittee on National Parks, Forest and Public Lands on H.R. 3155 “Northern Arizona Mining Continuity Act to preserve the multiple use land management policy in the State of Arizona, and for other purposes.” Opposing witness testimony by Mark Trautwein and Stephen Verkamp. See Cronkite News story.
Nov. 18. “The heart of why we believe Preferred Alternative should be implemented is simple — this is THE Grand Canyon…” Letter to Secretary Salazar by Grand Canyon River Guides Association.
Nov. 29. Grand Canyon Trust, Center for Biological Diversity file appeal of lower court decision supporting BLM’s permit to allow Arizona 1 uranium mine to re-open without updating its 1988 environmental assessment.
Dec. 12. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar’s Record of Decision is imminent, finalizing a hard-won, 20-year ban on new uranium mining claims on more than one million acres of public-land watersheds surrounding Grand Canyon.
Jan. 9. Success! Today, Secretary of the Interior Salazar ordered a 20-year moratorium on thousands of new mining claims that threaten to industrialize watersheds, which drain directly into Grand Canyon and the Colorado River. The decision culminates a successful, four-year campaign that the Trust initiated in response to a surge in new mining activity as uranium prices began to soar in 2006.
Jan. 9. Senator McCain is wrong about 1984 Wilderness Act and uranium mining on public lands surrounding Grand Canyon National Park.
Jan. 13. “Diné politicians applaud uranium ban,” Navajo Times story.
Jan. 17. Congressman Markey says the Grand Canyon not for sale.
Jan. 18. Earthjustice editorial
Jan. 19. Pew Environmental Group public lands director speaks out on Grand Canyon mining decision.
Jan.20. “Coconino Voices: Expanding uranium mining near Canyon unwise;” Coconino County Supervisor Carl Taylor, Arizona Daily Sun op-ed.
Jan. 22. “Keeping poison out of our water;” Clark County Commissioner Larry Brown, Las Vegas Sun op-ed.
Jan. 23. “Uranium-mining ban was a grand decision;” Grand Canyon Trust program director Roger Clark, Arizona Republic op-ed.
Jan. 30. New poll shows Arizona/western voters agree that public lands essential to economy.