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House Of Representatives Could Act Monday on Bid to Allow Uranium Mining Around Grand Canyon National Park


How strong is the market for uranium? Is nuclear energy a key component of the nation's energy future? How many jobs would be created by allowing mining of uranium around the Grand Canyon National Park?

Those are some of the questions to be asked as the House of Representatives moves, possibly as soon as Monday, to vote on a measure that would prevent Interior Secretary Ken Salazar from placing a moratorium on new mining claims on some 1 million acres surrounding the national park.

Arizona Congressman Jeff Flake put a rider on the Interior Department's appropriations bill to tie the Interior secretary's hands.

"Uranium mining outside of Grand Canyon National Park can create jobs and stimulate the economy in northern Arizona without jeopardizing the splendor and natural beauty within the park," the congressman said in a statement posted on his website. "That's why the proposed moratorium on new uranium claims is opposed by state and local officials in Arizona."

Now, as we pointed out earlier, Rep. Flake's comments about Arizona opposition to the moratorium isn't exactly accurate. Officials for the Central Arizona Project, which uses a 336-mile-long aqueduct system to provide water to nearly 80 percent of Arizona's 6.5 million residents, have expressed concern over uranium mining around the park in a joint letter cosigned by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and the Southern Nevada Water Authority.

And, a number of sportsmen's groups oppose mining on the lands. Indeed, multiple local and national sportsmen’s organizations sent a letter to Secretary Ken Salazar to thank him for upholding the temporary moratorium on new uranium mining claims, and requested that he extend the ban to 20 years when his agency’s analysis is completed this fall.
“Wildlife, fisheries and the water that supports us are not partisan issues,” the group letter states. “Uranium mining near Grand Canyon National Park is wholly unacceptable given the best science available and the potential impacts not only to our natural resources but to the economy of Northern Arizona and the communities that drink Colorado River water.”
The Arizona Council of Trout Unlimited, Arizona Antelope Foundation, Arizona Deer Association, Arizona Wildlife Federation, Yuma Valley Rod and Gun Club, Arizona Elk Society, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, Anglers United Inc., and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership signed the letter. The organizations pointed to the risk of contamination to water supplies for people and wildlife, and warned that mining operations near Grand Canyon would fragment habitat for big game, including mule deer: “one of the most famous and studied deer herds in the world.”
Citing concerns for wildlife habitat, the bipartisan Arizona Game and Fish Commission has also endorsed the Interior proposal to withdraw 1 million acres surrounding the Grand Canyon from new uranium mining for the next 20 years.

The issue could come up in the House as soon as Monday when the chamber takes up the Interior appropriations bill. The National Parks Conservation Association has been working on Capital Hill and with an outreach campaign to alert park advocates of the upcoming vote.


What’s At Risk? The future of one of our nation’s, and the world’s, most revered treasures, and the legacy we will leave for our children and grandchildren.  This policy rider would directly threaten one of the top 20 US travel destinations (according to and America’s only one of seven natural wonders of the world. It also threatens the quality of the Colorado River’s water on which more than 25 million people in Arizona, Nevada and California depend, and the surrounding economies that depend on the nearly 5 million visitors to the Grand Canyon each year.  Further, area Native American groups would be affected, and are unified in support of the Sec. Salazar’s action to limit new uranium mining surrounding the Grand Canyon.

 You can help by contacting your congressional representative and letting them know where you stand on the matter.


This bill is the handiwork of both Rep. Flake and Rob Bishop of Utah.  Both are extreme anti-anything that will not enrich someone's pocketbook no matter what environmental effect it may have.

Both Mr. Flake and Mr. Bishop also have long histories of sliding things through the back door by using riders and amendments to have their way.  If they know a stand-alone bill will not have a chance of passing, they'll tack it onto another bill that will be hard to defeat or that will not risk veto.

However, as one who lived on the Arizona strip north of Grand Canyon and who had the opportunity to visit a working uranium mine, I have some conflicting thoughts about this.  The mines I visited back in the late 1970's seemed to be well managed.  They impacted only relatively small areas in a vast landscape.  They were located far from the Grand Canyon itself -- although one of them was not far from the west side of Kanab Creek.  They were very well ventilated and tailings were piled inside impounding dikes.

Yet on the other hand, I remember the toxic pile of tailings that had to be moved from the banks of the Colorado River near Moab and some other sites down in the southeastern corner of Utah.  But those dated from a time when the U.S. was detonating atomic bombs in southern Nevada.

I also lived down there when the lumber mill in Fredonia, Arizona was about to be closed.  A closure, by the way, that was probably based on some rather far-out environmental concerns.  So I fully understand the impacts -- good or bad -- of the effect these things have on jobs for people living there.

About the only conclusion my little head can find is one that cries very loudly for CAUTION in whatever is done.

     It seems entirely appropriate that Rep. Flake is using the Congress and a political process to keep open for mineral entry the area that was set aside by the Arizona Wilderness act of 1984 specifically for uranium exploration and mining. Please recall, Rep. Flack is not trying to open these lands, but prevent their closure based on the sole authority of one man: Secretary of the Interior Salazar.
     The Congress, in 1984, knew full well where the Grand Canyon was and a full spectrum of stake holders (including the groups now leading the charge against mining) came together and agreed on the areas to be set aside for uranium mining and those set aside as wilderness or areas not open to mineral entry.
     The Draft EIS (as poorly written as it is) that was written to inform Salazar's decision specifically states that uranium exploration and mining will not contaminate the Colorado River or its watershed in any significant way. The Colorado River naturally carries over 130,000 lbs of dissolves uranium and an additional 40,000 pound of uranium in its silt load EACH YEAR!
     To say that uranium exploration and mining would add to these amount in any detectable way is lying! That is exactly what the various conservation groups have been doing.
     The groups mentioned above as being against uranium mining have bought into the deceit put forth by the anti-mining groups.
     The internet is a powerful tool to get a message out. In this case it has been used for deceit, i.e., the Big Lie. The problem for these anti-uranium groups is that the Draft EIS, which is biased against uranium mining, still does not support a withdrawal. Even so, Salazar has chosen for the prefered alternative a total withdrawal for 20 years the 1 million acres he segregated. This was a POLITICAL decision and so it it entirely appropriate for Rep. Flake to respond politically.
     Why is it more appropriate for ONE MAN to have the power to overturn the specific intent of Congress via the Arizona Wilderness Act of 1984? It is not!
     One last point, I have yet to hear any explaination as to why uranium mining outside the Grand Canyon National Park might contaminate the Colorado River when the erosion exposed breccia pipes, containing ore grade uranium, less than three miles from the River inside the Canyon do not. There are three exposed breccia pipes just to the East of the Kaibab Trail and the Phantom Ranch Ranger Station. They may have contained as mush as 9,000,000 pounds of uranium and have been eroding into the Colorado river for a long time. 
     The anti mining groups don't mention that do they! It is way past time for the Press and other bloggers to do their own research on this issue instead of just repeating the unsubstantiated claims of the antimining groups.

I, too, saw the abandoned uranium works inside the Canyon when I visited in 2004. I even took photos.
It strikes me that if they mine the rock, and remove it, the impact to the river and the park will be *reduced* not increased. Throw all the enviromental regs you want at the projects, and enforce them as strictly as you wish, but mining, if properly done, is not evil. Mining (as with anything) improperly done should be abhorred. 
Hey, make it a win-win, by having the federal cut of the profits and royalties be legally tied to improve the park and surrounding county, not be sent to Washington as anonymous donations.
People should think outside of the box when it comes to both energy and minerals mining. There are better solutions now than the bad old days. The old paradigms are dead. Let's get on with it.

The BLM (Bureau of Livestock and Mining) sure is a peculiar landlord.  Most people leasing out their property expect their tenants to return the property, undamaged, at the end of the lease.  The BLM on the other hand is happy to take back a property that's completely destroyed, full of holes, and covered with the most toxic substances known to man.  Don't worry about the clean up.  Just like with the old uranium mine outside Moab (right next to the Colorado River), once cash flow slows down for the mine, all they need to do is declare bankruptcy.
On a more serious note, I wouldn't be surprised if many of these proposed mines over the course of their operations have no impact on water quality in the region.  Unfortunately, keeping our water safe will most likely mean a huge public expense, and constant clean up and monitoring by the DOE, EPA, and BLM, as well as allocating even more public land where the tailings will be buried long after these mines go out of business.  Like most issues where large amounts of public land and publicly owned natural resources are "leased" to private industry, everyone but the richest Americans loses.  We lose our tax money that could be used to promote true public good, the miners lose their health and access to clean air and clean water, and most importantly we lose part of our heritage.
I could respond to Gregory Yount, but to act like there's any similarity between the natural erosion of uranium and the runoff that will come from a mines tailings piles is just silly.  I assume everyone, including Gregory, knows that. 
Hopefully someday the range of possible decisons regarding the best use of our productive resources (human and natural resources) won't be limited to those options that will make someone rich, and someday we can actually consider options that will instead make us physically and spiritually healthy.  I'm sure there's plenty of work that needs to be done in Northern Arizona to make it a better place to live (weatherizing homes, restoring rangeland, etc.).  Unfortunately, with a government controlled by industry, most communities find that their best options are off limits.  Instead, at least in this case, they're made to choose between poisoning themselves with uranium or losing access to food and their homes.

Well if its anything like the phosphate mines down here in Florida I'd say no-way.Talk about destroying the enviornment!! What's really maddening is how they have hired these PR firms to put out TV commercials showing how they "love" the land--how they are just one of us-- trying to make a living. Then they show pictures of a racoon walking thru a bunch of cattails and a seagull flying overhead.Of course most people don't know the truth -- the beauiful 3-400 year old oaks  bulldozed,the native marsh drained and "restored" with catttails and worse the contamination of our drinking water.These people are huge companies beholding to no one but there stockholders. In reality they don't give a hoot about our countries security or providing good jobs-- they really want to rape the land,make as much $$$ as possible and then disappear . The low-life politicians in there pockets should be tarred,feathered and runout of town on a rail.The only ones lower are the attorneys representing them

This is in Respose to Aaron Lund's post. He may not want to respond to my post, but I will surely respond to his.
First, present day mining companies are required to post a 100% cash bond for the closure and reclaimation of any mining project. The bond is determined by the BLM or Forest Service. The Bond is or can be reviewed and adjusted annually. This means that a mining project is guaranteed to be 100% reclaimed even if a mining company was to go out of business.
So, it is a lie that the BLM or Forest service is happy to take back land that is all messed up. This just does not happen anymore. However, that is not to say that there are not legacy sites where this happened, however, present day law( for many years) does not allow this anymore.
Second, breccia pipe mines don't have any left over tailings. All ore is shipped to the mill and at the completion of mining( about 3 years) any other rock removed from the mine is back-filled into the mine and the land is resurfaced and returned to the pre-mine contours and reseeded with native vegitation. After a few years it is difficult to even tell where the mine was.
Aaron writes "I could respond to Gregory Yount, but to act like there's any similarity between the natural erosion of uranium and the runoff that will come from a mines tailings piles is just silly. I assume everyone, including Gregory, knows that."
I disagree, the erosion of the exposed uranium "ore body" of a breccia pipe would be magnatudes worse that that of a tailings pile. The uranium content of a breccia pipe's ore body measures on the order of 10,000 to 20,000 ppm uranium. The erosion products from the breccia pipe fan down the slope below the eroded ore body just like a tailings pile does.  A tailings pile would measure on the order of 100 to 500ppm uranium. I fail to see how a tailings pile is worse than the exposed and eroding ore body. 
In any event, breccia pipe mines leave no tailing piles at all and are 100% reclaimed.
In the end it is about choices. You could mine over 642 million tons of coal (producing 1.56 Billion tons of CO2 when burned) and disturb over 25,000 acres of land to equal the uranium in the withdrawal area, or you could build out a 570 square mile (364,88 acres) solar power station at a cost of 93 billion dollars to equal the electrical generating capacity of the uranium in the withdrawal area, or you could mine the uranium and disturb 1364 acre which would be 100% reclaimed and get enough uranium to produce 128 billion dollars worth of electricity.
Although Aaron was polite and a bit condescending, he really knows little of what he is talking about.

The Arizona Wilderness Act of 1984 struck a fair and reasonable balance between the natural environment and the human environment.   People cannot survive in the human environment without a strong economy.   These 1 million acres of land in Mohave County, Arizona, are many miles away from the Grand Canyon National Park.  Mining employment in Mohave County, Arizona, has increased 298% between 2007-2010.  The average mining wage is a bit over $71,000 per year compared to the average tourism job in Mohave County, AZ, with an average annual wage of $24,000.  That makes a big difference when it comes to community infrastructure like roads, parks, and schools. 
Also, the mining of these breccia pipes is probably not what you are envisioning if you are not familiar with mining.  They are not ugly strip mining operations.  They are very small operations, completely contained and fenced.
What does a Congressman from Tucson care about the livelihoods of the people that actually live in the region.  Call the Mohave County Economic Development Department or any of the regional Chambers of Commerce in Lake Havasu City, Bullhead City, or Kingman.  They will all tell you that allowing the new mining activities will be a benefit to the local communities. 
As far as these new mining operations hurting tourism in Mohave County it is completely untrue.  When it comes to tourism in Mohave County, the vast majority of tourism activity occurs on the Western border of Mohave County at the London Bridge, Lake Havasu, Lake Mead, Lake Mohave, the casinos and gaming activity in Laughlin/Bullhead City, and of course the Skywalk at Grand Canyon West.  This information is cited from both Arizona Office of Tourism and the Mohave County Economic Development Department. 

Mr. Yount, would you introduce yourself to us?  Are you a mining engineer or geologist?  Are you a principal of some kind in the northern Arizona mining ventures?  Disclosure of qualifications and invested interests are an important part of any good discussion.  The same request should probably be made for Mr. Lund.

In response to one of your comments, however, we all need to remember that Sec. Salazar is not acting alone.  He is responsible for carrying out mandates laid out by Congress and the current administration.  I don't pretend to know all the ins and outs to that, but your implication that he is capriciously acting on his own is simply incorrect.

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