Uranium mining near the Grand Canyon that was prohibited under the Obama administration is gaining renewed attention from Arizona and Utah officials.
State officials want President Donald Trump to upend a 20-year ban on mining enacted in 2012. The ban is unlawful and suppresses economic opportunity, officials say according to The Guardian.
The battle over allowing uranium mining on more than one million acres near the Grand Canyon has been ongoing since 2008. Then-Democratic Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano was concerned over the Grand Canyon’s tourist industry and sought the ban.
Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior under former President Barack Obama, eventually authorized the ban to protect the environment of the national park as well as Native American groundwater and cultural sites. The National Mining Institute and Nuclear Energy Institute unsuccessfully sued to overturn the ban in 2013.
Arizona and Utah officials are capitalizing on a new, more industry friendly presidential administration. They must overcome environmental concerns, however, if they want to open up the land for development and economic growth.
No evidence exists of any uranium mining done in Arizona polluting the water supply, including a few mines in the million acre area near the Grand Canyon, a spokesman for Energy Fuels Resources Inc. told The Arizona Republic in an email.
Neal Niemuth, an Arizona mining consultant, does not think new uranium mines will have a negative impact on the environment.
“These are tidy little mines. … I don’t see this as some huge problem or some Superfund issue that they won’t be able to take care of,” Niemuth told the The Republic.
Geologist and mining consultant Karen Wenrich testified to Congress on uranium mines near the Grand Canyon. She told legislators the mines had little chance of polluting the water table because the mines were “dry,” or located between the surface of the ground and the top of the aquifer.
“When you mention the word radioactivity, that just freaks people out,” Wenrich told lawmakers.
“It’s hard to explain to a scientifically naïve public that uranium is in the environment,” Niemuth told The Republic.
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