Uranium Mine Threatens Grand Canyon's Endangered Species, Meets With Legal Challenge

For Immediate Release

Environmental Groups
Contact: 

Taylor McKinnon, Center for Biological Diversity,
(928) 310-6712, tmckinnon@biologicaldiversity.org
Roger Clark, Grand Canyon Trust,
(928) 774-7488, rclark@grandcanyontrust.org
Stacey Hamburg, Sierra Club, Grand Canyon Chapter,
(928) 774-6514, stacey.hamburg@sierraclub.org

Uranium Mine Threatens Grand Canyon's Endangered Species, Meets With Legal Challenge

GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK, Ariz. - The Center for Biological Diversity, Grand Canyon Trust, and Sierra Club
today filed a 60-day notice
of intent to sue
the Bureau of Land Management
over Endangered Species Act violations connected to Grand Canyon uranium
mining. The Bureau has failed to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service on the potential impacts of the Arizona
1 uranium mine, located just north of Grand Canyon National
Park, to threatened and endangered species.

The Bureau has been relying on old information and an outdated,
inadequate environmental analysis, which violates the National
Environmental Policy Act. The agency failed to supplement its 1988 environmental
assessment for the mine and prepare a new environmental impact statement in
light of new science and circumstances relevant to the mine’s
potential impacts.

The Arizona
1 mine is located within the 1 million acres of land that were temporarily
protected from mining via a segregation order enacted by the Department of
the Interior on July 20. The segregation prohibits new mining claims and
subjects the exploration and mining of existing claims to valid existing
rights. That means the Bureau must not allow mining to begin until valid
existing rights are established for the Arizona 1 mine’s claims.

Because the mine has been closed for more than a decade, a new
“plan of operations” is legally required, since Bureau of Land
Management regulations hold that those plans are only in effect while mines
are in operation. Mining officials have stated in the media that mining
could resume at the Arizona
1 mine as early as this fall.

“Today’s notice affords the Bureau of Land Management
both the opportunity and justification to correct its illegal
course,” said Taylor McKinnon with the Center for Biological
Diversity. “The Grand Canyon and its
endangered species deserve complete protection from the uranium industry.
And relying on outdated and incomplete reviews falls far short of that
standard.”

In 1984, a flash flood swept four tons of high-grade uranium ore
from a uranium mine near Arizona 1 through
Hack Canyon
and Kanab Creek into the Colorado River and Grand Canyon National
Park. The 1988 environmental assessment
states that the Arizona
1 mine, which is constructed in the bottom of a wash, is prone to unplanned
releases that would follow the same water course. Since 1988, four species
of fish native to the Colorado River, as
well as southwestern willow flycatchers, have been added to the endangered
species list, and critical habitat has been designated for their recovery.

“Experience has shown that uranium development can permanently
poison land and water in this arid region,” said Roger Clark with the
Grand Canyon Trust. “Prohibiting uranium mining in Grand
Canyon watersheds is essential to prevent further
contamination of our nation’s irreplaceable resources.”

Spikes in uranium prices have caused thousands of new uranium
claims, dozens of proposed exploration drilling projects, and proposals to
reopen old uranium mines adjacent to Grand Canyon.
Renewed uranium development threatens to degrade wildlife habitat and
industrialize now-wild and iconic landscapes bordering the park; it also
threatens to contaminate aquifers that discharge into Grand
Canyon National Park
and the Colorado River. The Park Service warns
against drinking
from several creeks in the
Canyon exhibiting elevated uranium levels in the wake of past uranium
mining. 

“Uranium mining has great potential to contaminate water that
flows into the Colorado River via various
seeps, springs, and streams,” said Stacey
Hamburg with the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon
Chapter. “Our drinking water and all of the Grand
Canyon’s wildlife is just too important to risk for the
short-term profits of this mining company.”

Proposed uranium development has provoked litigation, public
protests, and
statements of concern and opposition from scientists, city officials,
county officials, former Governor Janet Napolitano, the Navajo, Kaibab
Paiute, Hopi, Hualapai and Havasupai tribes, the Metropolitan Water
District of Southern California, and the Southern Nevada Water Authority,
among others. Statewide polling conducted by Public Opinion Strategies
shows overwhelming public support for withdrawing from mineral entry the
lands near Grand Canyon; Arizonans support protecting the Grand
Canyon area from uranium mining by a two-to-one margin. 

The Bureau of Land Management has 60 days to correct its
violations of the Endangered Species Act before being sued. Conservation
groups may file suit sooner on claims relating to the National
Environmental Policy Act and Mining Law of 1872 should the Bureau allow
mining to start before that 60-day period expires.

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