Missoula, MT -- As many families hit the road for summer vacation season, Environment Montana Research & Policy Center issued a new report highlighting the dangers of uranium mining near some of our country’s most iconic destinations. The report calls on Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to abandon potential plans to expand uranium mines near the Grand Canyon National Park.
“Uranium mining is one of the riskiest industrial activities,” said Skye Borden, director of Environment Montana Research & Policy Center. “We wouldn’t want a uranium mine next to Glacier or Yellowstone, and we don’t think the Grand Canyon should be treated any differently.”
Nearly six million people visit Grand Canyon National Park every year, making it the second-most visited park in the National Park System, and the most visited west of the Mississippi River. Tourism in Grand Canyon National Park contributes $904 million to northern Arizona’s economy every year.
That hasn’t kept the administration from exploring more uranium mining in the area surrounding the park. In 2017, Pres. Donald Trump issued an executive order calling for federal agencies to explore options for increasing energy production, and the USDA recommended reopening lands adjacent to the Grand Canyon for new mining. Such a change would require ending a 20-year moratorium on new uranium claims that was put in place in 2012 for one million acres near the Grand Canyon.
“Uranium mining's deadly legacy across the West is sufficient reason to halt all uranium mining around the Grand Canyon,” said Grand Canyon Trust program director Roger Clark. “It's unconscionable and irresponsible for federal and state agencies to keep issuing pollution permits to uranium mines located within Grand Canyon's watersheds, while ignoring accumulating evidence of how uranium mining is harming our region's people, water, environment and economy."
The new report shows that, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), 15 springs and five wells near Arizona’s Grand Canyon National Park contain uranium concentrations above the safe limit for drinking water. One contaminated spring flows down the Canyon’s south rim near the abandoned Orphan Mine – located only a few steps away from a popular vista point. Nearby mining also has contaminated tributaries of the Colorado River, which supplies drinking water to 40 million Americans, including the cities of Phoenix, Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
“We need a national monument to protect the Grand Canyon area and the Colorado River permanently,” said Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Ranking Member of the House Natural Resources Committee. “Until we get one, Americans across the country need to make sure the Trump administration doesn’t lift the 20-year moratorium on uranium mining in the region. New mining would be devastating to local communities and to the Grand Canyon itself. This report is a timely reminder of what’s at stake."
“From the Grand Canyon to Glacier and points in between, some places are just too special to mine,” concluded Borden.
Environment Montana Research & Policy Center works to protect clean water, clean air, and open spaces. We investigate problems, craft solutions, educate the public and decision-makers, and help the public make their voices heard in local, state and national debates over the quality of our environment and our lives.