Arizona Uranium MIning
Denison Mines recommenced development work on the Arizona 1 mine in April 2007 and restarted Uranium mining operations in November 2009. The mine is an underground operation employing a combination of long hole and shrinkage stopping methods at a mining rate of 335 tons per day, four days per week. Ore from the Arizona 1 mine is hauled by truck approximately 325 miles to the White Mesa mill. The mine employs a total of 32 people. Conservation groups and American Indian tribes today filed an appeal in the 9th Circuit Court challenging a lower court ruling that allowed the uranium mine near Grand Canyon National Park to re-open without updating decades-old environmental reviews. The Arizona 1 uranium mine is located near Kanab Creek immediately north of Grand Canyon National Park. In 2010, conservation groups and tribes sued the Bureau of Land Management for failing to modernize 23-year-old mining plans and environmental reviews prior to allowing Denison Mines to resume uranium mining after the mine was shuttered in 1992. A federal judge in Phoenix this fall sided with the Bureau and the uranium industry saying no new plans or reviews were needed, prompting the current appeal.
The Arizona Strip is an area largely bounded on the north by the Arizona/Utah state line; on the east by the Colorado River and Marble Canyon; on the West by the Grand Wash cliffs; and on the south by a midpoint between the city of Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon. The area encompasses approximately 13,000 square miles.
Six other mines are located in the area, along with thousands of uranium claims. Newly released data from the U.S. Geological Survey shows mining has elevated uranium and related pollution levels slightly in some areas, but that 95 percent of springs, creeks, and wells tested in the area are within EPA standards for drinking water.
"These uranium mines have been closed for nearly two decades. The public has a right to evaluate their impacts to water and wildlife before they re-open. Relying on old and outdated plans and reviews doesn’t cut it," said Taylor McKinnon, with the Center for Biological Diversity. "Allowing this decision to stand would shield mines from any further federal or public review once they have initial approval. That might be wonderful for the uranium industry but it’d be terrible policy for our public lands."
The Obama administration has proposed a 20-year ban on new mining claims and uranium development on existing claims lacking valid existing rights. A final environmental impact statement was issued for the 1-million acre ban in October.
Today’s appeal seeks to require the Bureau to complete new mining plans and environmental reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act, Federal Land Policy and Management Act and Endangered Species Act prior to allowing decades-old mines to re-open. That precedent would then apply to the other three existing mines in the 1-million-acre area should Denison try to open them.
"It is irresponsible to continue to allow these mines to go forward under both outdated plans and an antiquated mining law putting at risk some of our most iconic public lands, including Grand Canyon, plus allowing foreign corporations to so easily place claims and pay no royalties to the American people," said Sandy Bahr, director of Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter.
For further information: http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/news/press_releases/2011/grand-canyon-uranium-11-28-2011.html
Photo: Donald Bills/U.S. Geological Survey, Flagstaff