Uranium Exploration Near Grand Canyon 40 replies

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26th June 2000

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#1 10 years ago

Uranium Exploration Near Grand Canyon - New York Times

With minimal public notice and no formal environmental review, the Forest Service has approved a permit allowing a British mining company to explore for uranium just outside Grand Canyon National Park, less than three miles from a popular lookout over the canyon’s southern rim.

If the exploration finds rich uranium deposits, it could lead to the first mines near the canyon since the price of uranium ore plummeted nearly two decades ago. A sharp increase in uranium prices over the past three years has led individuals to stake thousands of mining claims in the Southwest, including more than 1,000 in the Kaibab National Forest, near the Grand Canyon.

To drill exploratory wells on the claims in the Kaibab forest requires Forest Service approval. Vane Minerals, the British company, received such approval for seven sites in December.

The Forest Service granted the approvals without a full-dress environmental assessment, ruling that the canyon could be “categorically excluded” from such a review because exploration would last less than a year and might not lead to mining activity.

On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors in Coconino County, Ariz., voted unanimously to try to block any potential uranium mines. It asked that the federal government withdraw large sections of land immediately north and south of the national park from mineral leasing.

“We have a legacy, which isn’t too good, from the uranium mining in the past,” said Deb Hill, chairwoman of the Coconino board.

Knowledge of the cancers suffered by former uranium workers and their families on a nearby Navajo reservation, worries about uranium-laden trucks and trains on roads and concern about contamination of the aquifers and streams in arid northern Arizona were also factors in the vote, Ms. Hill said.

The Forest Service made its decision after limited public notice to local officials, environmental groups and tribal governments. There was no public hearing.

Bill Hedden, the executive director of the Grand Canyon Trust, said the approvals were the first indications that a new generation of uranium mines might spring up on the Colorado Plateau near the canyon, an area peppered with uranium-rich geological formations called breccia pipes.

Matthew Idiens, the director of corporate development for Vane, said at least seven mines had been located not far from the park in past decades, yielding an average of 3.4 million pounds a mine. The exploratory activity his company plans, Mr. Idiens added, “is somewhat limited — taking in a truck, doing a bit of drilling, but that’s it.” The breccia pipes, he said, “cover a very small area.”

“You put a shaft next to them when you mine them,” he said, “and you take the uranium out and put everything else back in.”

“After four or five years, you reclaim it, put it back the way it was, and no one would ever know you were there,” Mr. Idiens said. “We obviously understand it’s scenic and beautiful there, and we respect that enormously.”

Barbara McCurry, the Kaibab National Forest’s spokeswoman on this issue, said her agency had little choice but to allow the drilling under the 1872 mining law that governs hard-rock mining claims. “The exploratory drilling is pretty minimal,” Ms. McCurry said, adding, “Our obligation is to make sure that any impacts are mitigated.”

The Environmental Working Group in Washington has been tracking the new wave of uranium mining claims sweeping across the Four Corners region of the Southwest and is issuing a report on the claims and their possible effects,

Dusty Horwitt, the author of the report, said the Forest Service’s actions confirmed that House-approved amendments to the 1872 law on mining activity should be approved by the Senate. Congress, Mr. Horwitt said, should give federal land managers the right to balance the desires of mining companies with other values like the protection of national parks and water supplies.

“If uranium mining operations are about to start on the edge of the Grand Canyon and federal officials say there’s nothing we can do, the time is now to reform the 1872 mining law,” Mr. Horwitt said.

Mr. Hedden, of the Grand Canyon Trust, pointed out that several Indian tribes in the Four Corners area, including the Navajo, the Hopi and the Havasupai, had voted to ban uranium mining on their land.

Ms. McCurry, of Kaibab National Forest, pointed out that, if Vane found a cluster of uranium deposits and sought a permit to mine, the decision would require a full environmental analysis and an environmental impact statement.

We at the United States really do care about the environment. And when we say we care, we actually mean tearing it the fuck up for profit...




Karst

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6th January 2005

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#2 10 years ago

The fact that Uranium mining is still profitable is bad enough. It's extremely energy intensive and polluting, not to mention that transport and storage of radioactive materials is problematic, and that's all before it even gets to the plant.... But the fact that hard-rock mining claims are governed by a law that's 136 years old. I'm sure glad there aren't any nuclear power plants or uranium mines in this country.




Mr. Pedantic

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8th October 2006

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#3 10 years ago

Wait...This is outside the national park, right? And this is three miles away from the lookout? So I don't really see a problem...unless radioactive particles are likely to drift over to the lookout, or into the canyon itself.




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#4 10 years ago
Archmage Cleps;4230659Wait...This is outside the national park, right? And this is three miles away from the lookout? So I don't really see a problem...unless radioactive particles are likely to drift over to the lookout, or into the canyon itself.

the particles wont travel that far the alpha particles travel a few meters at most and they are the most damaging to us the beta a bit further and the gammas are all around us anyways so wont cause any more damage




Flodgy

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#5 10 years ago

Naw beta does nothing to the human body unless it is a constant exposure and you're standing right beside it. It only takes a plank of wood to block it.

Gamma however (which wouldn't be released as it is incredibly harmful) requires several metres of concrete to block it.

Uranium mining is a big fad here in Australia, as we have a massive abundance of the stuff. Wish we didn't though...




Mr. Pedantic

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#6 10 years ago
the particles wont travel that far the alpha particles travel a few meters at most and they are the most damaging to us the beta a bit further and the gammas are all around us anyways so wont cause any more damage

I don't mean actual ionizing radiation, I mean bits of uranium oxides, fluorides, or other compounds that would float on air.

And mineral mining is a large part of Australia's revenue.




Locomotor

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#7 10 years ago

Over a thousand stakes for Uranium in that national forest alone? That is blimey awful. National forests in general, and the Grand Canyon wilderness regions, are worth more in their biodiversity than any amount of Uranium (read: money).

“If uranium mining operations are about to start on the edge of the Grand Canyon and federal officials say there’s nothing we can do, the time is now to reform the 1872 mining law.” I agree completely. It's ironic that we are "obligated" to follow this obsolete edict when others concerning Native American land and environmental issues and such we just toss aside as irrelevant.




AlDaja

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5th September 2006

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#8 10 years ago

Yes the rockies (at least the mountain ranges that exist in the continental US) are rich in uranium, but I don't think we should be drilling for it. It was done in the 50's and 60's in Colorado and there are still areas that you can't go into do to radioactivity - primarily due to poor mining operations in the intrest of making money back in the day. As a matter of fact one of the old mines threatens to contaminate local drinking water supplies and can potentially destroy a community if the existing underground blockage breaks free. Bureaucracy has complicated the matter to such a degree that our governer had to write to Bush to get the attention we needed to advert a catastophe which will happen when the snow melt happens come spring. You can read more on what's happening here: http://www.9news.com/rss/article.aspx?storyid=86831:argue:




Mr. Pedantic

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#9 10 years ago

That is a shame. In fact, it's a disgusting state of affairs. Surely taxpayer dollars are there for a reason other than arguing who else should pay for something?




RadioactiveLobster Forum Admin

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#10 10 years ago

So the fact that it might be used to solve some of our energy problems doesn't concern the lot of you.


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