Mining Around a “Grand” American Treasure
The development of uranium mining around the Grand Canyon has been a tug of war between mining companies, local residents and government agencies.
While visitors to the Grand Canyon area see impressive vistas, rock formations and wildlife populations, some of these companies see an opportunity for destructive and consumptive land use.
Fortunately, Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, restored protection of this one million-acre area surrounding the Grand Canyon again this July. The ban restricts all new uranium mining projects for a two-year period in which the U.S. Department of the Interior will evaluate mining impacts on the lands.
Mining companies claim that because their projects must follow Clean Water Act and National Environmental Policy Act standards, they are safe. Yet no total assessment of uranium mining in the Grand Canyon area has been undertaken until now.
Although an exploration permit does not guarantee actual drilling will be approved, Grand Canyon admirers and residents of the area have every reason to be concerned with the impacts of mining. The canyon is one of our nation’s most impressive natural destinations and it’s disheartening to think this refuge for wildlife and outdoor activists alike is not free from harmful mining practices.
One tributary of the Colorado River–Horn Creek–is under investigation due to its high radioactive levels. The Colorado River is not just a stream meandering along the Grand Canyon, it also provides water to millions of people and wildlife surrounding the desert area.
Not only is the radioactivity of water a concern, but also the leaching of mercury and arsenic from these mines. Residents relying on water from the Colorado River can’t settle for an answer that its “safe enough” until a proper assessment is done.
There has been an outpouring of support for the ban of new uranium mining from American Indian tribes, Arizona residents and city and county officials, but you don’t have to be a resident of the West to show how much you value the preservation of America’s Grand Canyon lands.