U.S. opinion leaders ask Obama to continue Grand Canyon uranium mining ban
As the Obama Administration decides whether to extend a ban on uranium mining near the Grand Canyon, a New York Times ad features prominent Americans calling for a 20-year extension.
Posted: Tuesday , 07 Jun 2011
RENO, NV -
In an open letter contained in an ad published this week in the New York Times, 50 politicians, actors, scientists and public officials urged the Obama Administration extend a 1-million acre mining ban around the Grand Canyon National Park for 20 years.
In 2009 U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar issued a federal order calling for a two-year "time-out" from all new mining claims in the Arizona Strip near the Grand Canyon. The lands blocked from new exploration and mining activity includes acreage managed by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service.
Mining reform advocates have argued that the Grand Canyon and important ecological areas around the national park be protected from uranium mining. It is believed there are at least 8,500 mining claims near the Grand Canyon, up from 100 claims on file in January 2003.
In a letter last month to Salazar, 63 members of the U.S. House said, "Mining so close to the Canyon could seriously impair the region's ecosystems: wreaking havoc on the landscape, drying up critical seeps and springs, disturbing fish and wildlife, and releasing toxic chemicals into the environment. With mining claims positioned so close to the Canyon and the Colorado River, a range of contaminants from heavy metals to uranium could also degrade the downstream water supply, impacting a water supply relied on by millions of Americans. Not to mention the fact that uranium mining produces permanent radioactive waste, an environmental toxin which must be disposed of in an urgent, safe manner."
The open letter in the New York Times advertisement published this week by the Pew Environmental Trust states, "What hangs in the balance is not just the Grand Canyon's splendor for future generations, but important wildlife habitat and the health of the Colorado River, which provides drinking water to millions."
Officials from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and the Southern Nevada Water Authority have pushed to limit new uranium mining along the Grand Canyon's Colorado River watershed, which provides drinking water for 25 million people.
Among those signing the open letter are Theodore Roosevelt IV (a descendant of former President Teddy Roosevelt who designated the Grand Canyon a national monument on 1908), former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, the mayors of Phoenix, Los Angeles, North Las Vegas, Nevada and Flagstaff, Arizona, actors Robert Redford, Edward Norton and "Modern Family's" Ty Burrell, PBS documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, former U.S. Sen. Gary Hart, Jacqueline Johnson Pata, executive director of the National Congress of American Indians, former National Park Service Director Roger G. Kennedy, former BLM Director Jim Baca, officials from the Hualapai Tribal Council, and various environmental leaders.
Toronto-based Denison Mines is operating four developed and partially developed mines on the Arizona Strip, located in northern Arizona. The strip is bounded on the south by a midpoint between Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon. The company restarted the Arizona 1 uranium mine in 2010.
Denison officials have told the U.S. Congress that "uranium mining in the region around the Grand Canyon has clearly demonstrated that it can be done with no impact on the Grand Canyon watershed."
Mining was done for 15 years in the area followed by a 13-year mining hiatus. During the hiatus no water analyses from in and around the Grand Canyon have detected any contamination from uranium mining, Denison told Congress.
Picture: Mario Anzuoni / Reuters