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House Hearing Attacks Grand Canyon Uranium Ban

20-year Moratorium, Upheld by 9th Circuit Court Today, Protects Tribes, Water, Wildlife, Tourism

Grand Canyon view from near the top of the New Hance Trail.

In the 9th Circuit decision, Judge Borzon referred to John Wesley Powell’s description of Grand Canyon, “the most sublime spectacle in nature.”

For Immediate Release, December 12, 2017

Contacts:

Don Watahomigie, Havasupai Chairman, (928) 448-2731htchair@havasupai-nsn.gov

Ted Zukoski, Earthjustice, (303) 996-9622 (w), (303) 641-3149 (c), tzukoski@earthjustice.org

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

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

Taylor McKinnon, Center for Biological Diversity, (801) 300-2414 tmckinnon@biologicaldiversity.org

Kevin Dahl, National Parks Conservation Association, (520) 603-6430, kdahl@npca.org

 

GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK— The Havasupai Tribe and conservation groups decried a House subcommittee hearing today where lawmakers considered lifting a 20-year ban on new uranium mining across 1 million acres of public lands near Grand Canyon National Park. The ban, instituted by the Department of the Interior in 2012, was upheld by a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision earlier today. It prevents further soil and water pollution from uranium mining and gives researchers time to study its risks to the Grand Canyon’s aquifers and springs.

The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, chaired by Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), provided a forum for the National Mining Association to attack the uranium-mining ban that is supported by tribes, regional businesses and the public. The hearing comes days after President Trump ordered more than 2 million acres slashed from Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah.

Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), who spearheaded the attacks on the national monuments, has called for lifting the Grand Canyon uranium-mining ban. The Trump administration also recommended rolling back the ban in a November U.S. Forest Service report.

“The Northern Arizona Mineral Withdrawal must remain in place,” said Havasupai tribal Vice Chairman Edmond Tilousi. “Opening the doors to uranium mining before we understand how it will affect our waters gambles with the very survival of the Havasupai people. We have always been the protectors of the Grand Canyon, and have faced new threats with every generation. My heart hurts knowing that these companies will stop at nothing to make a profit for themselves today, with complete disregard for the consequences for those of us left to live with their mess. These profiteers do not care if they destroy our waters. They do not care if the waste they make today poisons or kills our tribal members as it seeps into our springs. The 20-year ban and the studies it mandates are the only things protecting us. They need to continue until completion.”

The Havasupai Tribe, Grand Canyon Trust, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity and National Parks Conservation Association have for years worked to protect the Grand Canyon region from uranium-mining impacts. They’ve intervened on the side of the government to defend against a uranium-industry lawsuit challenging the 2012 withdrawal. A 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision today upheld that ban, calling it a “cautious approach” and “risk-averse” to potentially permanent damage from uranium mining.

“The Department of the Interior’s decision to enact these critical protections was met with resounding support from a diverse array of stakeholders nationwide,” said Ted Zukoski, an attorney with Earthjustice. “Given the potential for irreversible uranium contamination to Grand Canyon’s aquifers and springs, and the direct threat this poses to a critical source of life and identity of the Havasupai Tribe, it made perfect sense in 2012, and it makes perfect sense now.”

In 2007 more than 10,000 uranium-mining claims were staked on public lands surrounding the Grand Canyon, raising concern among tribes, businesses and local governments. The ban followed an exhaustive environmental impact statement assessing uranium-mining risks. According to Interior’s study, new uranium mining could harm springs, wells and aquifers, including increasing levels of uranium beyond federal drinking-water standards, severely depleting aquifers, endangering public health and wildlife, and compromising the values of the tribes who consider the springs sacred.

Interior’s study showed that without a mining ban, 26 new uranium mines and 700 uranium exploration projects would be developed, resulting in more than 1,300 acres of surface disturbance and the consumption of 970 acre-feet of water. More than 500 abandoned uranium mines still pollute land and water on the Navajo Nation, which has banned uranium mining. Water in Horn Creek, in Grand Canyon National Park, exceeds federal uranium standards owing to pollution from the abandoned Orphan mine on the canyon’s south rim.

“Multinational uranium companies export processed uranium mined from our nation’s public lands,” said Roger Clark with the Grand Canyon Trust. “We are alarmed that this administration favors the interests of foreign investors at the risk of poisoning places like the Grand Canyon, while potentially adding to the more than $1 billion debt that U.S. taxpayers must pay for cleaning up the mess from our region’s last uranium boom.”

“There is every reason to keep this mining ban in place and no good reason to reverse it,” said Sandy Bahr, Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon chapter director. “In fact, public lands around Grand Canyon should be permanently protected from uranium mining and other destructive measures that threaten waters, wildlife, and tribal resources. These public lands are significant in their own right, plus protecting them helps to protect the watershed for Grand Canyon.”

The Grand Canyon is the most spectacular gorge in the world and a biodiversity hotspot that anchors the tourism economy of the Four Corners region. The canyon area is home to indigenous people, including the Havasupai, and has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. In 2016 the greater Grand Canyon region attracted a record 6 million tourists and recreationists, and Grand Canyon National Park tourism alone contributed $904 million to local economies and supported nearly 9,800 jobs.

“We must uphold the current, commonsense plan to protect Grand Canyon National Park and vital tribal water sources,” said Kevin Dahl, Arizona program manager for National Parks Conservation Association. “The purpose of the moratorium is to stop any risk to the limited underground water that feeds Grand Canyon’s important seeps, springs, and side creeks — and the entire water supply of the Havasupai people. Let’s stick with this prudent effort until we can be absolutely sure mining won’t pollute the aquifer.”

“Any effort to lift this crucial ban will meet fierce opposition,” said Taylor McKinnon with the Center for Biological Diversity. “There’s every reason to believe uranium mining will permanently damage Grand Canyon’s precious aquifers and springs. That’s an unacceptable risk, and it’s immoral of Congress and Trump to even consider it.”

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Appeals Court Upholds Grand Canyon Uranium Mining Ban

Havasupai Tribe, Conservation Coalition Celebrate Key Win for Water, Wildlife, Sacred Lands

Grand Canyon

In the 9th Circuit decision, Judge Borzon referred to John Wesley Powell’s description of Grand Canyon, “the most sublime spectacle in nature.”

For Immediate Release, December 12, 2017

Contacts:

Ted Zukoski, Earthjustice (303) 996-9622 (w), (303) 641-3149 (c), tzukoski@earthjustice.org

Don Watahomigie, Havasupai Chairman, (928) 448-2731, htchair@havasupai-nsn.gov

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

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

Taylor McKinnon, Center for Biological Diversity, (801) 300-2414 tmckinnon@biologicaldiversity.org

Kevin Dahl, National Parks Conservation Association, (520) 603-6430, kdahl@npca.org

GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK— The Havasupai Tribe and a coalition of conservation groups praised today’s decision by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upholding the Department of the Interior’s 20-year ban on new uranium mining claims across 1 million acres of public lands adjacent to Grand Canyon.

The court ruled that the ban, adopted in 2012, complies with the Constitution and federal environmental laws, and that the protected area was not too large, as plaintiff mining companies had argued. The ban protects the aquifers and streams that feed the Colorado River and the Grand Canyon from toxic uranium-mining waste pollution and water depletion.

The Havasupai Tribe, Grand Canyon Trust, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity and National Parks Conservation Association intervened in the case in 2013. The groups and the Department of Justice won a 2014 decision by U.S. District Court in Arizona, which upheld Interior’s 2012 uranium mining withdrawal. Mining companies appealed the decision to the 9th Circuit.

Unfortunately the court also rejected a challenge to the Canyon Mine, a uranium mine located on the Kaibab National Forest six miles south of Grand Canyon National Park. The court’s decision allows Energy Fuels Inc. to mine without initiating or completing formal tribal consultations and without updating an obsolete federal environmental review dating to 1986.

“The Havasupai people have been here since time immemorial. This place is who we are,” said Don Watahomigie, the Havasupai Tribal Chairman. “The Creator made us protectors of the Grand Canyon. The Havasupai Tribe is gratified to know that the court has recognized the validity of the mineral withdrawal and what we have always known — that this place, these waters and our people deserve protection. The lives of our children and the purity of our waters are not to be gambled with and are not for sale.”

“This is a great day for the Grand Canyon, for the Havasupai people who rely on its sacred waters, for the people who love this wonder of the natural world, and for the wildlife that call it home,” said Ted Zukoski of Earthjustice.

In January 2012 then-Interior Secretary Ken Salazar issued the 20-year ban that prohibits new mining claims and mine development on existing claims without valid permits. The mining industry claimed that the Interior Department’s exhaustive, 700-page evaluation of environmental impacts was inadequate. Interior’s study of the mining ban showed that without a withdrawal in place, 26 new uranium mines and 700 uranium exploration projects could be developed, resulting in more than 1,300 acres of surface disturbance and the consumption of 970 acre feet of water.

Under the 20-year ban, existing mine operations are projected to have about one-tenth of the surface impacts and one-third the water usage. According to Interior’s study, new uranium mining could have major impacts on springs, wells and aquifers, including increased levels of uranium beyond the Environmental Protection Agency’s drinking water standards and severely depleted groundwater, endangering public health and wildlife, and compromising the values of the tribes who consider the springs sacred.

“This decision rewards years of cooperation toward protecting the water, air, and people that mining near the Grand Canyon puts at risk,” said Grand Canyon Trust’s Roger Clark. “History has shown us how uranium mining can go wrong on the Colorado Plateau, we’re glad for more time to make sure the same legacy isn’t also bestowed upon the Grand Canyon.”

Uranium pollution already plagues the Grand Canyon and surrounding areas. Proposals for new mining have prompted protests, litigation, and legislation to make the ban permanent. Dozens of new mines threaten to industrialize iconic and sacred natural areas, destroy wildlife habitat, and pollute and deplete aquifers. Scientists, tribal and local governments, and businesses have all voiced support for the protections enacted by Interior.

“Sierra Club applauds this decision to uphold the limits on mining on public lands adjacent to Grand Canyon National Park and to protect the park and the greater Grand Canyon region from the hazards of uranium mining, which poses a threat to the people, lands, water, and wildlife of the region,” said Sandy Bahr, Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon chapter director. “We are disappointed that the court did not uphold the challenge to Canyon Mine, however, and we will continue to do all we can to ensure permanent protection of these lands.”

One of the great symbols of the American West, the Grand Canyon was first protected as a national monument by Theodore Roosevelt in 1908. The canyon is surrounded by millions of additional acres of public lands that include wilderness areas, two national monuments, lands designated to protect endangered species and cultural resources, and old-growth ponderosa pine forests. The canyon area is also home to indigenous people, including the Havasupai, Kaibab Band of Paiutes, Hualapai and Navajo tribes, and has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. In 2016 the greater Grand Canyon region attracted over 6 million tourists and recreationists, and Grand Canyon tourism contributed $904 million to local economies and supported nearly 9,800 jobs.

“This victory is wonderful news for a region already riddled by decades of uranium industry pollution and plunder,” said Taylor McKinnon of the Center for Biological Diversity. “This decision is critical to protecting the Grand Canyon’s precious aquifers, biodiverse springs and surrounding public lands for future generations.”

“After an extensive review process and substantial public participation, the Department of the Interior’s decision to protect one of the world’s most enduring landscapes and the sustained health of indigenous communities that live within the watershed of the Grand Canyon was a strong and appropriate one,” said Kevin Dahl of the National Parks Conservation Association. “The court’s action in upholding this ban is commendable.”

The uranium mining companies have 45 days to seek a rehearing by the three-judge panel or by the 9th Circuit sitting en banc. The companies also have 90 days from this decision, or from a denial of rehearing (whichever is later) to petition the U.S. Supreme Court for review of the 9th Circuit Court decision. Such petitions are granted in only a tiny fraction of cases.

Download the decision here.

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

 

IMG_9242

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.

IMG_5843

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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Say NO to Uranium Mining Around Grand Canyon!

Speak up at Uranium Mine Public Hearings

Canyon Mine_ Sarah Ponticello photo

Canyon uranium mine.

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) is issuing new air quality permits to three uranium mines within 20 miles of Grand Canyon National Park. Two mines are preparing to open for the first time: Canyon Mine south of Grand Canyon and EZ Mine north of Grand Canyon. One mine is on “standby” and not currently producing ore: Arizona 1 Mine north of Grand Canyon. The Pinenut Mine, also north of Grand Canyon, is preparing for “reclamation” and is not being required to have an air quality permit.

ATTEND A PUBLIC HEARING:

Monday, August 29 6pm

Fredonia High School Gymnasium

221 E. Hortt St.

Fredonia

Tuesday, August 30 1pm-3pm

Moenkopi Legacy Inn & Suites
Tsotsvalki Conference Center
Tunatya Room #3
Junction of Hwy 160 and Hwy 264 in Tuba City 

Tuesday, August 30 6 pm

Sinagua Middle School Auditorium Mini A

3950 E. Butler Ave.

Flagstaff

SUBMIT A WRITTEN COMMENT:

Written comments are due August 30. More information and link to submit comments at https://www.azdeq.gov/PN/EnergyFuelsResources

 

Here are some talking points to use when preparing your comments. Choose points you feel confortable talking about, and personalize with your own reasons for opposing these mines. If you have questions or want help preparing for the hearing, contact Alicyn at alicyn.gitlin@sierraclub.org or (928) 774-6514.

  • Deny these permits. These mines are all located in Grand Canyon’s watershed and threaten the water, soil, and air of the Grand Canyon ecoregion.
  • It is ADEQ’s responsibility to protect the air and water resources of this state, and to enforce the Clean Air Act and protect the citizens from pollution.
  • Uranium dust is most dangerous when ingested or inhaled. Once inside the human body, it can damage the lungs, kidneys, bones, or cause birth defects. Trucks will only be covered with tarps and can spread dust along roadways. They can also pick up contamination from the ground at the mine and shed it as they travel.

    IMG_5837

    Northern Arizona University students protest a mine approved before they were born and shuttered until the present day.  Students demanded a public approval process that included them.  Their demands were denied by the Forest Service.

  • Ore trucks should be completely sealed – not just covered with a secure tarp.
  • 10-12 trucks per day will move through Valle, Williams, Flagstaff, Cameron, Tuba City, and much of the Navajo Nation on their way to a mill in Blanding, UT; then, empty trucks will return along the same path. Tell ADEQ how the risks associated with these mines affects your ability to enjoy your property and to feel safe on your community’s roadways and public lands. Tell them about your fear of inhaling dust or receiving a dose of radiation while sharing the roads with these vehicles. Make your testimony personal.
  • Contamination was found around the closed and reclaimed Pigeon and Hermit mines north of Grand Canyon, and soils near roads were also contaminated. Roads near the 1979 Church Rock, NM uranium mining disaster showed contamination near haul roads. There must be dust sampling along all haul roads, and communities should be prepared with emergency response plans in case of an accident causing an ore spill.
  • Uranium and arsenic have been consistently detected at elevated levels in the soils surrounding previously mined areas in northern Arizona.
  • Red Butte, adjacent to Canyon Mine, is a Traditional Cultural Property that is significant to the Havasupai, Hopi, Navajo, Zuni, and Hualapai tribes.
  • The Plan of Operations for Canyon Mine is over 30 years old and should be revised before air permits for it are issued.

    CANYON MINE 1

    10-12 trucks per day will travel from Canyon Mine, 6 miles south of Grand Canyon, through Williams, Flagtaff, Cameron, Tuba City, and much of the Navajo Nation on their way to a mill in Blanding, Utah.

  • The EZ Mine has had no federal review under the National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act, or National Historic Preservation Act. ADEQ should wait for these processes to be complete and before issuing an air permit.
  • Require a permit for and monitoring of the Pinenut Mine (Permit #62876) until all radioactive material has been removed and no contamination or radiation can be detected for at least a year.
  • The permittee, Energy Fuels, is responsible for monitoring dust and emissions, and self-reporting emissions that exceed legal limits. They will also self report deviations from permit requirements. An independent third party should be responsible for monitoring and reporting problems.
  • The amount of water required to suppress dust will be large in comparison to the amount of groundwater available in the region. That groundwater is important to maintain vital seeps and springs that humans and wildlife depend on.

    2012 11 21 Canyon Mine aerial 1

    Canyon Mine.

  • Radon emissions (radon-222) limitations will be calculated as a function of the number of pounds of material processed, instead of having a hard limit on the amount of radon released. ADEQ should limit the total amount of radon that the mine is allowed to release per hour. Ore processing should not be allowed to occur at a rate that causes emissions to exceed the limit.
  • Soil and radiation monitoring outside the fence will be 100 feet from the fence. Sampling should also occur closer to the fence to catch problems before they spread that far.
  • Soil sampling will only happen once per year. It should happen at least quarterly. Gamma radiation will be monitored quarterly. Outside independent monitors should perform these activities.
  • We know that soil contamination has occurred near other areas where ore and mined rock have been able to stand at uranium mines. ADEQ shouldn’t wait until contamination is found before ordering the mine to implement measures to protect the ore piles. As a condition of this permit, the mine should have to: construct wind barriers, storage silos, or a three-sided walled enclosures to protect ore piles; or, piles should be covered with tarp, plastic, or other material that is regularly checked for tears and maintained as necessary to prevent holes and abrasions.

Related:

State of Arizona Asked to Reject Permit Renewals for Uranium Mines Near Grand Canyon National Park http://www.sierraclub.org/arizona/blog/2016/08/state-arizona-asked-reject-permit-renewals-for-uranium-mines-near-grand-canyon

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.

IMG_5860

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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