If you’ve got plans to see the Grand Canyon, do it soon, because if the Trump Administration gets its way, a lift on the ban on uranium mining might be in the near future.
According to a piece in the Guardian, a coalition of influential officials in Arizona and Utah argue the 2012-enacted twenty-year ban on new uranium mining near the Grand Canyon is unlawful and stifles mining industry economic opportunity.
The Mohave County board of supervisors, whose region borders the Grand Canyon’s north side in Arizona, and regional leaders in neighboring southern Utah county governments, are planning this week to appeal to U.S. interior secretary Ryan Zinke with a request the federal government scrap national monument protections for lands of natural wonder “throughout Arizona.”
They also want Zinke to shrink national monuments in southern Utah, such as Bears Ears and Grand Escalante to widen an area for mineral exploitation.
Earlier this year, Congress reversed the Bureau of Land Management’s “Planning 2.0” rule, an initiative from former President Barack Obama that gives the public more input into how we use land. Interior Secretary Zinke closed the moratorium on federal coal leases and pledges to open up public lands to intensified oil and gas extraction.
President Donald Trump ordered Zinke to review twenty-seven national monument designations to determine whether some parks might be reversed or shrunk.
Supporters of the Obama-era ban state new mining activity could increase risks of uranium-contaminated water inundating the Grand Canyon. Previous mining activity left hundreds of polluted sites among Arizona’s Navajo population and lead to serious health consequences, including cancer and kidney failure.
Carletta Tilousi of the Havasupai tribal council told the Guardian:
“We are already one of the smallest tribes in the country with just 775 people, and our stories of living down in the Grand Canyon go back to the beginning of time…We are faced with the potential dangers of uranium contamination into our sole water supply. [Local] testing in other areas has already shown traces of uranium from mining in the Grand Canyon region, and I don’t think we would be able to survive an environmental catastrophe here, I just don’t know where we would go.”
The Mohave County board’s letter claims:
“The mining of uranium does not affect ground water nor destroy the natural resources of the land.”
Jim Matson, Kane county commissioner, told the Guardian:
“These restrictions have been opportunity killers. Economic development on our public lands is terribly important.”
But Roger Clark, program director of the Grand Canyon Trust, said:
“That’s ridiculous. Every time we look for evidence we find contamination, 100% of the time.”
About the health impacts, Flagstaff, Arizona, councilwoman Celia Barotz, said:
“I don’t think we have certainty on the safety of uranium mining. We’ve seen the terrible legacy on the Navajo reservation. The industry argues procedures have changed and are completely safe now, but I’m not convinced.”
In 2013, Coconino County, adjacent to Mohave County, rejected a uranium mining application on public lands, citing the industry created “significant risks” to public health with “no measurable benefits.” It estimated the loss of tourism revenue would negate significant boost in any jobs.
For more information on the uranium threat, check out this video (after the jump):
Featured Image Via YouTube Screenshot.