Category Archives: Uranium Mining

Uranium Company Calls Us “Egregious”? Sierra Club Offers Defensible Facts.

In the Phoenix New Times story, Canyon Mine Faces Accusations of Environmental Racism by Navajos, Sierra Club (March 21, 2017), the vice president for marketing and corporate development at Energy Fuels Nuclear (USA) Inc., who owns Canyon Mine, had a few interesting things to say.  Unfortunately, he put forward no evidence behind his statements, and we have photos and documents to back up ours.

 

1.) Water being trucked from Canyon Mine has elevated levels of uranium, and possibly other toxic chemicals too.  The Phoenix New Times article reported: 

…a spokesman for Energy Fuels previously told the Arizona Daily Sun that the water being trucked through the Navajo Nation has three times the amount of dissolved uranium than is considered “safe” to drink. And in a November report to the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, the company noted that the water contains 30 times the recommended level of arsenic.

But now Curtis Moore, vice president for marketing and corporate development at Energy Fuels, says that the water is not contaminated. “The excess water we are managing is relatively clean, and contains only trace amounts of natural uranium,” he wrote in an e-mailed response.

“In fact, the water we are trucking offsite either meets – or comes very close to meeting – EPA drinking water standards for dissolved uranium.”

FACT: Energy Fuels Nuclear (USA) Inc. told the Arizona Daily Sun that the water contained 90 micrograms per liter, three times the drinking water “standard” of 30 micrograms per liter set by the EPA.  This level of uranium contamination was confirmed in a conversation between Sierra Club and the Kaibab National Forest on March 17, 2017. This level is lower than the amount that Energy Fuels Nuclear (USA) Inc. reported to the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality in its “General Aquifer Protection Permit Annual Report for 2016”, when they reported 130 micrograms per liter of uranium (over four times the drinking water standard) and 292 micrograms per liter of arsenic (over 29 times the drinking water standard for arsenic) in water taken from the shaft of Canyon Mine on November 9, 2016.

 

2.) Contaminated water is being sprayed in the air – and radioactive mist is drifting into the Kaibab National Forest.

Making matters even worse, the Sierra Club says, Energy Fuels is now spraying some of the water from the mine into the air in an attempt to get it to evaporate. Photos captured by Sierra Club and Haul No! volunteers appear to show radioactive mist drifting into the Kaibab National Forest, which surrounds the mine…

Curtis Moore of Energy Fuels disputed the environmental group’s claims.

“We are not blowing water into the forest, as the Sierra Club claims,” he wrote in his e-mailed response.

“We have employed some commonly utilized enhanced evaporation machines that creates a mist over the pond to speed evaporation rates, which we shutdown during high-wind days to avoid the potential of the mist of this relatively clean water from crossing our fence-line.”

FACT: Here’s a picture taken at Canyon Mine on March 12, 2017, outside the perimeter fence of Canyon Mine, on a day when the average wind speed was only 4mph at the nearby Grand Canyon Airport, with gusts of 20 to 30 mph.

Overspray of radioactively contaminated water drifts into the Kaibab National Forest near Canyon Mine. Klee Benally photo.

Overspray of radioactively contaminated water drifts into the Kaibab National Forest near Canyon Mine. Klee Benally photo.

 

Aaaaaand, here’s another one:

Overspray of radioactively contaminated water drifts into the Kaibab National Forest near Canyon Mine. Klee Benally photo.

Overspray of radioactively contaminated water drifts into the Kaibab National Forest near Canyon Mine. Klee Benally photo.

Sure looks to me like the toxic mist is hitting the forest…

 

3.) Trucks moving uranium-laced water through the Navajo and Ute Nations are mislabelled or poorly marked.

FACT:  This photo shows a truck arriving at Canyon Mine’s front gate to pick up a load of water headed for the White Mesa uranium mill in Blanding, Utah.  The placard says “1268” which is a marking indicating the truck is hauling petroleum products.  Nothing indicates the presence of uranium in the truck’s contents.

A truck arrives at Canyon Mine to pick up radioactively contaminated water to haul to the White Mesa uranium mill in Blanding, UT. The placard is labelled for petroleum products. Ryan Beam photo.

A truck arrives at Canyon Mine to pick up radioactively contaminated water to haul to the White Mesa uranium mill in Blanding, UT. The placard is labelled for petroleum products. Ryan Beam photo.

 

Facts.  Nothing but facts here.

Please let us know what you think.

 

 

U.S. Court of Appeals to Hear Back-to-Back Cases on Uranium Mining Threats to the Grand Canyon Region, Thursday Dec. 15 in San Francisco

 

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Uranium mining on the plateaus surrounding Grand Canyon threatens creeks below its rims.  Uranium contamination from the Orphan Mine has rendered Horn Creek, between the popular Bright Angel and Hermit Trails, undrinkable.

Contacts:

Ted Zukoski, Earthjustice (303) 641-3149tzukoski@earthjustice.org

Neil Levine, Grand Canyon Trust (720) 339-0800nlevine@grandcanyontrust.org

Richard W. Hughes, Rothstein Donatelli LLP, (505) 988-8004rwhughes@rothsteinlaw.com

Eric Bontrager, National Parks Conservation Association (202) 770.7419ebontrager@npca.org

Sandy Bahr, Sierra Club-Grand Canyon Chapter (602) 999-5790sandy.bahr@sierraclub.org

 

San Francisco — The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco will hear oral arguments Thursday, December 15 on two key cases involving uranium mining on public lands near Grand Canyon National Park.

In the first case, Havasupai Tribe v. Provencio, the Havasupai Tribe, Grand Canyon Trust, Center for Biological Diversity, and Sierra Club challenge the United States Forest Service’s decision to allow Energy Fuels Resources to reopen the Canyon uranium mine, which was initially approved in the 1980s and had been closed since 1992. The federal agency permitted this “zombie” mine to reopen without analyzing the mine’s environmental impacts in light of changed circumstances in the intervening quarter-century.

The Canyon Mine is located on the Kaibab National Forest, a few miles south of Grand Canyon National Park, and is within a one million acre area that was withdrawn from mining in 2012 due to concerns about uranium mining’s environmental and cultural threats to the Grand Canyon watershed.

2012 11 21 Canyon Mine aerial 2

Canyon Mine was approved with no new environmental review after being closed for a quarter of a century.

Richard Hughes of Rothstein Donatelli LLP will argue on behalf of the Havasupai Tribe; Neil Levine of Grand Canyon Trust will argue on behalf of conservation groups.

The second case, National Mining Association v. Jewell, involves mining and uranium industries’ challenges to the Interior Department’s 20-year ban on new uranium mining claims on public lands adjacent to the Grand Canyon.

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Northern Arizona students protest uranium mining near Grand Canyon.

The ban was requested in 2008 by Arizona’s governor, local governments, American Indian tribes, recreationists, and conservation groups concerned about a uranium mining boom’s impact on groundwater, cultural resources, and the iconic landscapes surrounding the Grand Canyon. It was issued by then-Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in 2012. The U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona upheld the ban in two rulings, one in 2013 (decision here) and the other in 2014 (decision here), and the mining interests appealed.

The nonprofit law firm, Earthjustice, will represent the Havasupai Tribe, Grand Canyon Trust, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, and National Parks Conservation Association in defending the ban. Department of Justice attorneys will also defend the Interior Department’s decision.

 


What: Arguments in Havasupai Tribe v. Provencio and National Mining Association v. Jewell before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals

Where: Courtroom 4, Room 260

               James R. Browning U.S. Courthouse

               95 Seventh St.

             San Francisco, Calif.

When: Approximately 9:30 a.m. PST, Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016

Streaming: http://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/media/live_oral_arguments.php.


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Praise for Rep. Kirkpatrick’s Endorsement of Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Thursday, September 30, 2016

Contact: Celia Barotz, cbarotz@gmail.com, (928) 853-7295

Photo of House Rock Valley from Kaibab Plateau: trees, canyon

FLAGSTAFF, AZ — Rep. Anne Kirkpatrick (AZ-1) today announced her support of the proposed Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument, signing on as a co-sponsor to the Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument Act. Kirkpatrick joins a long list of those speaking out for a monument designation, including more than 20 area Tribal Nations, more than 400 local businesses, and local and national leaders.

“I applaud Rep. Kirkpatrick for standing with many people in Arizona and throughout the country who want to safeguard these lands from new uranium mines,” said Celia Barotz, Vice-Mayor of Flagstaff.

The proposal enjoys strong support in the state, with 4 in 5 Arizonans supporting protecting the public lands surrounding the Grand Canyon as a national monument– support reflected nationwide with 82% of people in favor of the proposal. Across the country more than half a million people have joined the call for action by President Obama.

“What’s good for the environment is also good for our economy. People travel from around the world to see an untouched Grand Canyon, not uranium mining operations,” said Ash Patel, president and CEO of Southwest Hospitality Management, LLC and past chairman of the Asian American Hotel Owners Association.  “Protecting Grand Canyon for future generations is dear to my heart. The step Rep. Kirkpatrick took today brings us one step closer to ensuring this natural beauty stays in its more rare form.”

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State of Arizona Asked to Reject Permit Renewals for Uranium Mines Near Grand Canyon National Park

For Immediate Release, August 15, 2016

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

2012 11 21 Canyon Mine aerial 2

Aerial view of Canyon Mine, 6 miles south of Grand Canyon National Park

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz.— Conservation groups today asked the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) to deny air permits for three uranium mines near Grand Canyon and to continue monitoring a mine that is no longer active. All of these mines are located within watersheds (surface and ground) that drain directly into Grand Canyon National Park and threaten water, air and other important resources of the greater Grand Canyon ecoregion, including soil, wildlife, sacred Native American sites and the health of people who are exposed to the heavy metals and radiation associated with these mines.

Grand Canyon Trust, Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity filed comments with ADEQ outlining ongoing concerns with the four uranium mines. The groups noted that in 2010, they, Coconino County Supervisor Carl Taylor and hundreds of citizens objected to issuing air permits for these mines because of unacceptable risks to residents and visitors to the Grand Canyon region. ADEQ has yet to address the substantive issues that were raised.

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Protestors ask for an end to uranium mining that risks contaminating groundwater near Grand Canyon.

Earlier this year, ADEQ suspended the permit renewal process after increased uranium levels were found in the soil near Pinenut Mine, north of Grand Canyon. Soil tests indicated that the uranium levels were four times higher than the normal background levels

“Once again we see the cumulative evidence of uranium contamination,” said Roger Clark with the Grand Canyon Trust. “When will the Grand Canyon State stop issuing permits to pollute our air and water?”

“For more than a half-century, uranium mining has permanently polluted our land, air and water. Its deadly legacy is well documented and yet state and federal agencies are still permitting new mines,” said Sandy Bahr with Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter. “Given the proximity of these mines to Grand Canyon and the history of contamination, ADEQ should give these mines the utmost scrutiny and reject these permits.”

“Uranium mining on the Colorado Plateau unleashed an unending environmental disaster that has permanently scarred the landscape and local communities,” said Katie Davis with the Center for Biological Diversity. “It is unconscionable that ADEQ would continue to sacrifice our natural heritage and the health of our fellow citizens by granting these permits.”

Background

In 2012 the Obama administration issued a “mineral withdrawal” prohibiting new mining claims and the development of claims lacking valid existing rights across 1 million acres of public land surrounding Grand Canyon National Park. Despite public protests and legal challenges from local American Indian tribes and conservation groups, federal agencies allowed several uranium mines established prior to the withdrawal, including the Canyon, AZ1, and Pinenut mines, to resume operations. All the mines are operated by Energy Fuels Resources, Inc., a company with a history of regulatory violations.

The Canyon Mine is located on the Kaibab National Forest, six miles south of Grand Canyon National Park. It is currently operating and has obtained federal permits, which are being challenged in federal court. The AZ1 and EZ mines are both located north of Grand Canyon on Bureau of Land Management lands. Operations at AZ1 are currently suspended. EZ mine is not yet operational and has not been permitted at the federal level. Though currently subject to reclamation activities, the Pinenut Mine site, located north of Grand Canyon on BLM lands, remains contaminated and continues to be a source of radioactive dust pollution.

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Learn about how you can weigh in on ADEQ’s uranium mine permits: http://www.azdeq.gov/PN/EnergyFuelsResources

Read our comments on the uranium mine permits: http://www.grandcanyontrust.org/sites/default/files/resources/gc_ADEQ_comments_8_15_16.pdf

An Open Letter to the Arizona Game and Fish Commission – Uranium Mines Do Threaten Wildlife

August 4, 2016

An Open Letter to the Arizona Game and Fish Commission – Uranium Mines Do Threaten Wildlife

mine rig

The Arizona Game and Fish Commission seems more interested in playing politics than in considering legitimate concerns facing wildlife and habitat. Its statement about uranium mining being a “non-existent threat” to condors is just wrong. No one disagrees with the fact that lead poisoning is the number one threat and number one killer of condors – that’s why we advocate for a ban on lead ammunition. However, contrary to what the Commission claimed in its recent media release, federal wildlife and land management experts have also long had concerns about the impacts of uranium mining on condors and other wildlife. Such effects include both the mining process and the associated hazardous materials.

In fact, concerns were raised as far back as 2002. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) biologists, tasked with ensuring the success of the condor’s recovery from near extinction, concluded abandoned uranium mines were a threat. In its five-year review of the condor reintroduction program, USFWS noted the following: “At the Orphan Mine in Grand Canyon National Park, condors have been perching on the tower above the mine shaft…and from there investigating the associated ground debris and structures. The area surrounding this abandoned uranium mine is designated a hazardous waste site. Condors have been observed with their heads thoroughly coated in mine residue, potentially exposing them to various environmental contaminants” (https://www.fws.gov/cno/es/calcondor/pdf_files/1st-5yr-reviewreport.pdf, p. 23). Concerns about condor exposure to these contaminants was part of the impetus for the National Park Service to begin cleaning up Orphan Mine.

The Commission itself has expressed concerns about effects of uranium mining on wildlife and habitat and has supported a permanent ban on uranium mining near Grand Canyon. In a March 2008 letter to Senator McCain, it “express[es] concerns regarding the potential impacts to wildlife and wildlife habitats through proposed uranium development on lands in the proximity of Grand Canyon National Park.” The letter also notes that the Commission “opposes uranium development in the proximity of Grand Canyon National Park” and requests that Congress consider “permanent withdrawal” of the area from mining activities (Uranium Development near Grand Canyon National Park letter, March 17, 2008).

Game and Fish further recognized the potential negative impacts to wildlife from uranium mining in comments on the proposed mineral withdrawal. Game and Fish indicated that uranium mining activities “have the potential to affect wildlife directly by displacing wildlife due to mining activity, indirectly by fragmenting intact habitat, and adding toxic materials to the environment” (AZ Game and Fish email communication to BLM, March 5, 2010).

condorThe Forest Service and other agencies also raised concerns in 2008 and included additional protective measures for an exploratory uranium drilling project: “If a condor shows up at a drill site, the Forest Service will be contacted immediately and any project-related activity likely to harm the condor will halt temporarily until the condor flies away or is driven away by permitted personnel (FWS or Peregrine Fund personnel). Project workers will be instructed to avoid interaction with condors” (Amendment for VANE Minerals Decision Memo, February 6, 2008).

The National Park Service also found that activities associated with uranium mining are a threat to wildlife. It stated, “Waste water associated with uranium mining operations contains high concentrations of a variety of metals and other chemicals associated with the mining process (Kaufman et al. 1976). These waste waters are usually stored in nearby evaporation ponds for remediation. The surface evaporation ponds will serve as an attractant and may represent a significant hazard to wildlife” (National Park Service Potential Impacts of Uranium Mining on Wildlife Resources, January 2010).

In consultation between the Bureau of Land Management and the USFWS related to the mineral withdrawal for one million acres of public lands around Grand Canyon, USFWS stated that the withdrawal would “remove potential threats” to imperiled wildlife. With respect to condors, specifically, the USFWS found that the withdrawal would “protect these species [condors and Mexican spotted owls] from mining-related effects associated with human disturbance, human interactions, and potential contamination of food or prey items” (Request for Concurrence for Northern Arizona Mineral Withdrawal, August 29, 2011).

Although the mineral withdrawal is in place for a portion of the lands included in the proposed Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument, it is only a temporary withdrawal and is also being challenged by mining interests. National monument designation would eliminate future uranium mining, thus providing long-term protection for condors and other wildlife related to the exposure to uranium and other toxins associated with uranium mining, including exposure via the waste water. The monument would provide protection for landscape-scale habitat blocks and key wildlife corridors, as well, which is yet another reason the Game and Fish opposition to the proposed national monument is incongruent with its mission. The monument would not, as Game and Fish claims, affect hunting, fishing, or other outdoor recreation opportunities.

Perhaps the key question here is not whether uranium mines can hurt wildlife, including condors. It seems clear that they can. The key question is why is Arizona Game and Fish no longer concerned about the impacts of uranium mining on wildlife? Why does it not support protection of wildlife habitat? And why is it supporting mines instead of monuments? Game and Fish seems to have lost touch with its mission when it comes to northern Arizona’s public lands. It should get back to wildlife conservation and stop the political grandstanding.

Sincerely,

Sandy Bahr

Chapter Director

Sierra Club – Grand Canyon Chapter

For more information on uranium mining impacts, please see this 2007 report from the AZ Game and Fish Department here.

Outdoor Retailer Show: Industry Leaders Call for Grand Canyon Monument

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Contact: Sarah Ponticello, info@gcwatershed.org, 831-998-2585

View as webpage

People standing on edge of a canyon with a quote from Nazz Kurth, president of Petzl America: "We cannot afford to stay static; a national monument is needed to preserve the outdoor experience of these public lands."

SALT LAKE CITY– As the Outdoor Retailer show gets underway in Salt Lake City,  leaders in the outdoor industry have united to urge President Obama to act quickly on a proposed Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument in Arizona. The leaders join a long list of those speaking out for a monument designation, including more than 20 area Tribal Nations, nearly 100 local businesses, and local and national elected leaders.

The proposal enjoys strong support in the state, with 4 in 5 Arizonans supporting protecting the public lands surrounding the Grand Canyon as a national monument. Nationwide more than half a million people have joined the call for action by President Obama.

“During the Winter Outdoor Retailer show, it was clear that passions run deep in our industry for protecting the Greater Grand Canyon,” said John Sterling, executive director of the Conservation Alliance, which hosted a breakfast event that highlighted the monument proposal. “Since then support has continued to grow, as has the need to act. Now is the time to protect the Greater Grand Canyon’s heritage.”

“The Greater Grand Canyon boasts some great climbs, but it also hosts forests, grasslands and meadows. That opportunity for surprise is what ignites the passion for exploration that is central to Petzl’s mission. We cannot afford to stay static; a national monument is needed to preserve the outdoor experience of these public lands,” said Nazz Kurth, president of Petzl America.

“I’ve been fortunate to make a career out of my love for the outdoors, working with companies like Patagonia and Keen, which share my belief that access to wild places is foundational nourishment for the human spirit—a belief fed and watered largely by experiences offered by places like the Greater Grand Canyon,” said Casey Sheahan, Keen Footwear board of advisors.

“Future generations deserve to experience the unspoiled beauty of the Grand Canyon and the surrounding landscape as their ancestors did, as I and my family have,” said Danny Giovale, Kahtoola founder. “President Obama has an opportunity to ensure that all Americans have the chance to experience the grandeur of Grand Canyon’s watershed through the creation of the Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument. I urge him to work with the tribal nations and make a designation quickly. It’s a move that will benefit us all.”

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Half Million+ People Call for Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument

Join Area Tribes, Local Electeds,

Business Leaders

550,000 signatures graphic
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, July 6, 2016
Contact: Carletta Tilousi,  carstilousi@yahoo.com, (480) 296-3984
Celia Barotz, cbarotz@gmail.com, (928) 853-7295
Sarah Ponticello, info@gcwatershed.org, (831) 998-2585

WASHINGTON,D.C.– Today groups announced the delivery of more than 550,000 petition signatures and comments urging President Obama to designate the proposed Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument. The supporters join a long list of those speaking out for the monument designation, including more than 20 area Tribal Nations, nearly 100 businesses, outdoor recreation and conservation groups, and local and national elected leaders. The sheer number of signatures and comments is a demonstration of the growing movement calling on President Obama to take action to protect the public lands around Grand Canyon.

Avaaz, CREDO, Center for Biological Diversity, Environment Arizona, Grand Canyon Trust, League of Conservation Voters, The Pew Charitable Trusts, Sierra Club and The Wilderness Society were among the groups participating in the delivery.

“At the national, state and local level, the American people stand behind this effort and believe in its purpose,” said Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Natural Resources. “Conserving Native American history and culture, protecting the environment and guaranteeing public access to these lands in perpetuity are each important goals. Creating the Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument meets each of those goals and more. I firmly believe this administration hears the voice of the people, and I look forward to working with President Obama to protect this land once and for all.”

Photo of House Rock Valley from Kaibab Plateau: trees, canyon

“The Havasupai and tribes living near the Grand Canyon need the support of all citizens residing in the United States to support the Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument Act,” said Carletta Tilousi, Havasupai Tribal council member. “Our goal is to protect the Grand Canyon from international uranium mining companies. The uranium companies have contaminated enough of our waters and lands. We need to protect what is left of the Grand Canyon by working together and protect the Canyon for all peoples to enjoy peace and tranquility of god’s land.”

“Protection of the Grand Canyon is most important to the Hopi Tribe. As stewards of the land we value and appreciate the public support for the preservation of this special place that is culturally and spiritual significant to the Hopi people,” said Herman Honanie, Hopi Tribal Chairman. “Not only has Hopi always paid homage to the Grand Canyon, it has often been referred to as one of the ‘Great Wonders of the World’. So it ought to be considered as such and so proclaiming it a national monument is in order. Further, President Theodore Roosevelt visited and viewed the Grand Canyon in 1903; he was taken by its grandeur, and stated, ‘Leave as it is.’  Today, we need to heed his words as well as those who want to see the Grand Canyon area preserved in its current state.”

Honanie continued, “We still need the public’s help to let President Obama know to designate the Grand Canyon as America’s next national monument. As the ‘Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument,’ this will ensure that this spiritual place is protected for future generations.”

“The Grand Canyon is a culturally significant area which sustains life for many tribal people and cultures,” said Shan Lewis, President, Inter Tribal Association of Arizona and Vice Chairman, Fort Mojave Indian Tribe. “It is encouraging to see the outpouring of support from across all walks of life for the Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument Act. The Act will provide for the future sustainability of this living, national treasure as well as the cultures and people that call the Grand Canyon home.”

Kristen Caldon KMC_3088_gunsight.point.vert (2)

Kristen M. Caldon photo

Recognizing both the threats to the area and its cultural, natural, and economic importance, local city and county officials too have echoed the tribal leadership to safeguard the heritage of the Greater Grand Canyon area.

“The Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument proposal represents a unique opportunity to serve multiple objectives- protecting the incredible natural and cultural assets surrounding the Grand Canyon, supporting our regional economies, continuing critical forest restoration initiatives and guaranteeing multiple uses activities like hunting, ranching and traditional food gathering,” said Coconino County District 1 Supervisor Art Babbott. “District 1 encompasses much of the southern portion of the proposed monument and I strongly support the Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument. This proposal, which balances conservation and existing uses, stands in sharp contrast to efforts to dispose of our irreplaceable public lands to the very wealthy and multinational mining interests whose number one priority is radically expanding uranium mining in and around the Grand Canyon.”

“I stand strongly with the more than half a million Americans, including 80 percent of Arizona’s registered voters, Flagstaff area business owners, and Arizona state and local elected officials who support the proposed Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument,” said Flagstaff Vice-Mayor Celia Barotz.  “I urge President Obama to fulfill the vision of Theodore Roosevelt when he designated the Grand Canyon National Monument in 1908.”

 

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Arizona Urged to Deny Pollution Permits for Toxic Uranium Mines Next to Grand Canyon

Canyon Mine_ Sarah Ponticello photo

Canyon Mine, just 6 miles from Grand Canyon’s South Rim.  Sarah Ponticello photo.

For Immediate Release, December 16, 2015

Contact:

Katherine Davis, Center for Biological Diversity, (801) 560-2414, kdavis@biologicaldiversity.org

Roger Clark, Grand Canyon Trust, (928) 890-7515, rclark@grandcanyontrust.org

Sandy Bahr, Sierra Club, (602) 999-5790, sandy.bahr@sierraclub.org 

PHOENIX— Conservation groups today called on the state of Arizona to deny air-pollution permits for three uranium mines on the doorstep of Grand Canyon National Park.

In comments sent to the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, three conservation groups also asked for stricter environmental regulation of uranium mining, citing concerns over the potential spread of radioactive dust pollution in the city of Flagstaff and tribal communities in northern Arizona. The comments were submitted during the public comment period for the agency’s plan to renew air-pollution permits for three mines without necessary environmental review, monitoring or mitigation requirements for potentially radioactive pollution.

The department issued a notice of the plan to renew air-pollution permits to the uranium mines (Canyon Mine, EZ Mine and Pinenut Mine) in early December. No public hearings for areas that will be affected by the mining and transport of uranium ore have been planned. Conservation groups questioned the appropriateness of granting all three permits, including for the EZ Mine, which has yet to receive necessary federal operating permits.

“One of ADEQ’s permits is for a uranium mine that has yet to submit a plan of operations for public review or approval by the U.S. Forest Service,” said Grand Canyon Trust’s Roger Clark. “Without a specific plan, why is ADEQ issuing a permit for the ‘EZ’ uranium mine? Why would the state preapprove a permit to pollute for a mine that may not open for decades, if ever?”

Negative impacts to cultural heritage sites and water resources from existing uranium mines are well documented. The Havasupai people have long opposed Canyon Mine, which is located just miles from Red Butte, a designated “Traditional Cultural Property.” Research showing the toxic legacy of uranium mining on the Grand Canyon’s watershed led President Obama to temporarily withdraw federal land around Grand Canyon from new uranium mining in 2012.

“It’s outrageous to allow mining companies to pollute our air and water with radioactive dust known to threaten human health and wildlife,” said Katie Davis, a public lands campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Issuing these permits would show a reckless disregard of the state’s duty to protect the welfare of its citizens and the air, water and wildlife of Arizona.”

The comments also note the long history of violations of safety and reporting requirements by the mine operator, Energy Fuels, as well as the location of the mines within the protected airspace of Grand Canyon National Park. Studies of other uranium mines near Grand Canyon show a strong likelihood of radioactive contamination of surrounding public land, while uranium ore may be trucked along busy roads and highways covered by nothing more than a tarp.

“Sierra Club is committed to safeguarding Grand Canyon and protecting the health and welfare of the people of Arizona,” said Sandy Bahr, director of Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter. “The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality should also focus on these important goals and exercise the utmost caution and deny approval of these air permits for all three uranium mines.”

The groups’ comment also requested a public hearing and an extension of the comment period to allow for greater public participation. The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality’s public notice states that comments from the public on the proposed permit renewals will be accepted until Jan. 4, 2016.

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View the comments submitted by Sierra Club and coalition partners here: ADEQ Comments FINAL

Tell President Obama to protect the Grand Canyon region from uranium mining forever.

Grijalva Joins Tribes Monday in Flagstaff to Unveil Bill Creating Grand Canyon National Monument Honoring Tribal History, Culture

October 9, 2015

Media Contact: Adam Sarvana

(202) 225-6065 or (202) 578-6626

Grijalva Joins Tribes Monday in Flagstaff to Unveil Bill Creating Grand Canyon National Monument Honoring Tribal History, Culture

Washington, D.C. – Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva and tribal leaders from across Northern Arizona will hold a press conference Monday at 2:00 p.m. Arizona time in Flagstaff to introduce the Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument Act, a bill establishing a new national monument that reflects the long history and deep cultural roots of the region’s Native American tribes.

The event will feature speakers from the Havasupai, Hualapai, Navajo and Hopi communities supportive of the national monument. The bill represents the next step in the tribal-led effort to protect the Grand Canyon watershed and surrounding area.

Grijalva’s bill permanently protects the Grand Canyon from new uranium mining claims; protects tribal sacred cultural sites; promotes a more collaborative regional approach between tribal nations and federal land managers; protects commercial and recreational hunting; preserves grazing and water rights; and conserves the Grand Canyon watershed.

Grijalva has led the effort to protect the Grand Canyon from new uranium mining claims for years and was instrumental in then-Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s 20-year withdrawal announcement in 2012.

Event Details

What: Press conference announcing the Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument Act

When: Monday, Oct. 12, at 2:00 p.m. Arizona time

Where: Museum of Northern Arizona, 3101 N Ft. Valley Rd. in Flagstaff

Who: Ranking Member Grijalva and members of the Havasupai, Hualapai, Navajo and Hopi tribes

For more information about event details, contact Brandon Bragato at the Natural Resources Committee at brandon.bragato@mail.house.gov.

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Perspective on a Contaminated Waterway – now what? #AnimasRiver

The recent spill of 3 million gallons of mine waste into the Animas and San Juan Rivers has been shocking – but it is a symptom of a larger problem, not a fresh new issue.

Happier days on the San Juan River. Alicyn Gitlin photo.

The San Juan River in Utah.  Change mining regulations and protect future mines from contaminating our waterways: https://secure.sierraclub.org/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=16086

Tens of thousands of abandoned mines await cleanup in the upper Colorado River and Animas headwaters, and hundreds of abandoned uranium mines are scattered across the Navajo Nation, surrounding the San Juan, Little Colorado, and Colorado Rivers.  The outdated Mining Act of 1872 does little to hold the companies accountable that created the waste and manage the mine holdings.

Meanwhile, fish in the San Juan and Animas Rivers have been in trouble for decades. It is important that people educate themselves before choosing to eat fish out of the San Juan – and highly problematic that some of our least privileged citizens are the most likely to subsistence fish from the San Juan, and to irrigate with its polluted waters.

There are several areas of the San Juan and Animas Rivers that are contaminated with uranium mining and milling waste. Fish in the San Juan have had extremely high levels of lesions infected with bacteria and parasites that are most likely caused by contaminants such as PAH’s that derive from oil and gas drilling. There is a large amount of agricultural runoff, and also a suite of contaminants that derive from coal power plant smoke stacks. There are extremely high levels of mercury in fish throughout the watershed, and the Animas has long contained a dead zone and contamination from uranium and gold mining. In the past 10 years, fish have been rapidly dying in the Animas headwaters because of the contaminants trickling out of this mine complex -hence the push to create a Superfund site (successfully fought by the town of Silverton) and the attempt by EPA to contain the mine leakage. The rivers have needed to be cleaned up for decades, and the recent spill is just one more awakening call – but not the sole source of the problem.

Here are some studies of contaminants in fish in the San Juan:

http://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/Documents/R2ES/San_Juan_River_Report-Volume%201.pdf

http://www.fs.fed.us/rm/boise/AWAE/labs/awae_flagstaff/Hot_Topics/ripthreatbib/chischilly_sanjuanriver.pdf

http://www.durangogov.org/DocumentCenter/View/55

http://www.fws.gov/southwest/sjrip/pdf/DOC_San_Juan_River_fish_health_surveys.pdf

And this from an article published in the Washington Post:

“According to the Herald, three of the four fish species in the Upper Animas water basin (which includes Cement Creek and drains into the Animas River) disappeared between 2005 and 2010. Five years after that, the river was completely devoid of fish.
Insects and bird species have also fared poorly. And tests of the water flowing into Bakers Bridge, about three dozen miles south of Silverton, found that it carried concentrations of zinc toxic to animals. U.S. Geological Survey Scientists told the paper that the area was the largest untreated drainage site in the state.”

Fish taken out of the Colorado River/Lake Powell have similar contaminants. Please realize that there is no requirement to notify the public about any of this. Mercury is the only contaminant that you (the public) must be notified about. Hopefully this spill triggers a big change, because it’s been too easy to brush this under the rug before now.

What can you do?  We are all anxiously watching this pollution move downstream, and we all feel mostly helpless.  There is not a lot that any of us can do right now.  But we can try to ensure that the future doesn’t repeat the past by changing the mining regulations.  Sign our petition to hold mining companies accountable for their messes.  Support the creation of Grand Canyon Watershed National Monument, which would prevent the development of new uranium mines on the plateaus surrounding Grand Canyon National Park.  Grand Canyon already has four waterways that are unsuitable for drinking and bathing because of contamination from abandoned uranium mines.

Thank you for caring.

More links:

EPA response information and water sampling data from upstream of Durango.

A map of oil and gas wells surrounding the San Juan River in part of New Mexico.  Remember, this only displays a small stretch of the San Juan. From these wells, we might expect contamination to seep slowly, rather than a big dramatic spill.

A link to an interview that features an informed discussion and a good description of what is being found in the polluted mess actively moving downstream.

A High Country News article that discusses the history of contamination in and around the Animas.

An Daily Kos article that discusses the history of abandoned mines and why this area wasn’t declared a Superfund site.

Timely study results from USGS about agricultural and atmospheric contamination affecting Grand Canyon’s fish.

A petition to change the mining regulations to prevent this type of problem in the future.

A petition to create a Grand Canyon Watershed National Monument, which would prevent the development of new uranium mines on the plateaus surrounding Grand Canyon National Park.

On behalf of Sierra Club, Robert Tohe, Sierra Club Organizing Representative in New Mexico, released the following statement:

“Our thoughts are with the families in Colorado and New Mexico who now have to worry about whether their drinking water is clean or their jobs are threatened because of this needless disaster. The Animas River was sadly already contaminated due to the legacy of toxic mining practices. The company that owns this mine has apparently allowed dangerous conditions to fester for years, and the mishandling of clean-up efforts by the EPA have only made a bad situation much worse. As we continue to learn what exactly happened, it’s time that the mine owners be held accountable for creating this toxic mess and we urge the EPA to act quickly to take all the steps necessary to ensure a tragedy like this does not happen again.”

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