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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Washington’s Real Uranium Scandal

As Republicans Gin Up a Fake Case, They Open the Grand Canyon to Mining Companies
By Sarah Okeson

Washington’s Real Uranium ScandalAs Republicans have launched a trumped-up investigation into Hillary Clinton’s tenuous connection to the 2010 sale of a uranium company, those same Republicans are preparing to hand over protected public land to uranium mining companies.

A new U.S. Forest Service report suggests undoing an order under former President Barack Obama that banned new uranium mines near the Grand Canyon for two decades.

“The Forest Service should be advocating for a permanent mining ban, not for advancing private mining interests that threaten one of the natural wonders of the world,” said Amber Reimondo, energy program director for Grand Canyon Trust.


The 2012 order from then-Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar withdrew 1 million acres of Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management Land from new mining for 20 years. Existing mines and claims were allowed to continue.

The National Mining Association has challenged the ban in court but has lost so far. The case has been appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

In October, the association was addressed at a board meeting at the Trump International Hotel in Washington by Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta.

Other plaintiffs include the Nuclear Energy Institute which has spent $1.4 million on federal lobbying so far this year.

At the center of the controversy is Energy Fuels Resources, a Lakewood, Colo.-based mining company that owns the Canyon Mine near the south rim of the Grand Canyon and the White Mesa Mill. It is the only fully licensed and operating conventional uranium mill in the United States, about 300 miles away in Utah. 

The company’s parent corporation is incorporated in Ontario, Canada. The company has extensive mining interests throughout the West.

Uranium was discovered near the south rim in 1951. The Orphan Mine produced 13 million pounds of uranium used to power nuclear reactors and make nuclear weapons.

Outside the park, the turquoise Havasupai Falls at the bottom of a canyon on Native American land attracts hikers. The tribal name means “people of the blue-green water.”

“This is a dangerous industry that is motivated by profit and greed with a long history of significantly damaging lands and waters,” said Tribal Chairman Don Watahomigie. 

“They are now seeking new mines when this industry has yet to clean up the hundreds of existing mines all over the landscape that continue to damage our home.”

The interest in new uranium mines in our country comes as China and Russia are building new nuclear reactors. At home, nuclear energy has become increasingly costly. Westinghouse, which built nuclear reactors, went bankrupt.

The global price of uranium has fallen since reaching high in 2011. The U.S. produced 1,126 tons of uranium last year out of global production of more than 62,000 tons or less than 2% of the total.

ACTION BOX/What You Can Do About It

Call Tony Tooke, the chief of the U.S. Forest Service, at 202-205-8439 or write him at USDA Forest Service, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, D.C. 20250-1111

Contact your senators and representatives.

The Grand Canyon Trust, a nonprofit to protect the Grand Canyon and the Colorado Plateau, can be reached at info@grandcanyontrust.org or by calling 928-774-7488.