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Ban uranium mining in Grand Canyon watersheds

Uranium mining causes irreparable harm to natural and cultural resources in Grand Canyon’s watersheds. Polluted aquifers and surface waters, industrialized recreation areas, fragmented wildlife habitat, and devastated archaeological sites and sacred areas are among the many documented impacts from more than five decades of uranium mining in the Grand Canyon region. 

The abandoned Orphan Mine is polluting Horn Creek within Grand Canyon National Park right now—and has already cost taxpayers $15 million dollars for just the first phase of remediating surface contamination. 

As a result of Trust and allies’ sustained campaign, the Secretary of the Interior issued a 20-year ban in 2012 on all new uranium claims on federal land watersheds adjacent to Grand Canyon National Park (see blog and chronicle).

Furthermore, four mines that opened during the 1980s are exempt from the ban (see map).

  • Canyon Mine threatens the sole source of drinking water for Havasupai people and is causing irreparable harm to the Red Butte traditional cultural property.
  • Pinenut Mine pumps highly polluted groundwater into an uncovered surface pond used by birds and other wildlife.
  • Arizona 1 Mine causes dust and noise pollution in one of the most remote areas in the U.S.
  • Kanab North Mine (pictured above) is irradiating surrounding soil, and its contaminated containment pond is used by raptors, small mammals, and songbirds.

These mines closed in the 1990s when uranium ore prices dropped; but by 2012, three had reopened, then one closed again at the end of 2013. “Zombie” mines die and then come back years later due to fluctuations in uranium prices. These long periods of dormancy are causing unforeseen and unaddressed damage to soil, water, wildlife, and traditional cultural properties.

SIGN THE PETITION! Click here and help protect the Grand Canyon from “zombie” uranium mines.

In 2013 the National Park Service said that the “regional aquifer groundwater wells at the Canyon, Pinenut, and Hermit mines as well as the sumps at the base of Pigeon and Hermit mines have all exhibited dissolved uranium concentrations in excess of drinking water standards (30 micrograms per liter), with sump concentrations at Hermit Mine exceeding 36,000 micrograms per liter.”

WHAT WE’RE DOING

Grand Canyon Trust is leading a multi-year campaign in partnership with tribes, businesses and conservation groups, and diverse allies to 1) stop new uranium claims from further threatening Grand Canyon watersheds; and 2) ensure that existing mines meet comprehensive federal and state compliance measures for operations and remediation.

The Trust’s 3-5 year action plan with cooperating allies includes:

  • Defending the 20-year ban on new uranium mines, approved by the Secretary of the Department of the Interior in 2012, against legal and political challenges by the mining industry;
  • Permanently banning all new uranium mines by passing the Grand Canyon Watersheds Protection Act, or in the absence of Congressional approval, securing mineral withdrawal through executive authority;
  • Requiring existing uranium mines to complete environmental assessments and tribal consultations according to federal laws, to establish permanent groundwater monitoring wells, and to adopt other new compliance standards for preventing harm to natural and cultural resources.

Download our FACT SHEET to learn more about Grand Canyon uranium issues.

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