Court Challenge Filed to Stop Uranium Mining Next to Grand Canyon National Park

For Immediate Release April 30, 2015

Contact: Roger Clark, Grand Canyon Trust, (928) 890-7515, rclark@grandcanyontrust.org
Sandy Bahr, Sierra Club, (602) 999-5790, sandy.bahr@sierraclub.org
Katie Davis, Center for Biological Diversity, (801) 560-2414, kdavis@biologicaldiversity.org

Court Challenge Filed to Stop Uranium Mining Next to Grand Canyon National Park

PHOENIX, Ariz.— A coalition of conservation groups announced today they are appealing a lower court decision that opens the door to new uranium mining at the Canyon uranium mine, located only six miles from Grand Canyon National Park’s South Rim.

Sierra Club, the Center for Biological Diversity and Grand Canyon Trust, along with the Havasupai Tribe, had challenged the U.S. Forest Service’s decision to allow Energy Fuels Inc. to reopen the mine without initiating or completing formal tribal consultations and without updating an obsolete federal environmental review dating to 1986. Earlier this month U.S. District Judge David Campbell ruled in favor of the Forest Service in the case, allowing mine operations to move forward. The Havasupai Tribe has also filed a notice of appeal of the ruling.

Canyon Mine threatens tribal cultural values, wildlife and endangered species, and has the potential to contaminate the aquifers and streams that sustain the Grand Canyon and Colorado River with toxic uranium-mining waste.

“We are committed to safeguarding Grand Canyon, its waters and its wildlife,” said Sandy Bahr, director of Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter. “At a minimum, the Forest Service should look at the harm this mine will cause to the groundwater and ultimately the waters in Grand Canyon National Park and consider the last 30 years of science and additional information we have about uranium mining’s impacts to our natural and cultural resources.”

“The Canyon Mine threatens Havasu Falls and the Havasupai Tribe’s homeland with radioactive contamination,” said Roger Clark of the Grand Canyon Trust. “Particularly in light of the toxic legacy uranium mining has left across the Southwest, it is critically important to challenge Judge Campbell’s decision that the Canyon Mine can proceed under an outdated and obsolete environmental review.”

“Allowing uranium mines to operate without a full understanding of the scientific, environmental and cultural risks hurts our public lands and endangers our drinking water,” said Katie Davis with the Center for Biological Diversity. “A just outcome in this case will not require sacrificing our shared natural heritage for the profit of a few.”

The Forest Service first approved the Canyon mining plan in 1986, despite a challenge from the Havasupai Tribe. Uranium prices plummeted shortly thereafter, and the mine closed in 1990 before producing any uranium. The Forest Service allowed the Canyon Mine to reopen in 2012 without a plan update or environmental assessment to reflect the extensive changed circumstances since the original review and approval. These changes include the 2010 designation of the Red Butte traditional cultural property, reintroduction of the endangered California condor in the vicinity of the Canyon Mine, and the Department of the Interior’s 2012 decision to ban new uranium mining across 1 million acres near Grand Canyon.

Background
The Canyon Mine is located on the Kaibab National Forest six miles south of Grand Canyon National Park. The mine’s original approval in 1986 was the subject of protests and lawsuits by the Havasupai tribe and others objecting to potential uranium mining impacts on regional groundwater, springs, creeks, ecosystems and cultural values associated with Red Butte. Aboveground infrastructure was built in the early 1990s, but a crash in uranium prices caused the mine’s closure in 1992 before the shaft or ore bodies could be excavated. Pre-mining exploratory drilling drained groundwater beneath the mine site, eliminating an estimated 1.3 million gallons per year from the region’s springs that are fed by groundwater.

A 2010 U.S. Geological Survey report noted that past samples of groundwater beneath the mine exhibited dissolved uranium concentrations in excess of EPA drinking water standards. Groundwater threatened by the mine feeds municipal wells and seeps and springs in Grand Canyon, including Havasu Springs and Havasu Creek. Aquifer Protection Permits issued for the mine by Arizona Department of Environmental Quality do not require monitoring of deep aquifers and do not include remediation plans or bonding to correct deep aquifer contamination. Originally owned by Energy Fuels Nuclear, the mine was purchased by Denison Mines in 1997 and by Energy Fuels Resources Inc., which currently operates the mine, in 2012.

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About Protect Grand Canyon

Sierra Club's Restore and Protect the Greater Grand Canyon Ecoregion Campaign. Looking out for the 11,400 species that live in & love Grand Canyon!

Posted on May 4, 2015, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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