Tags Archives: Nuclear & uranium

Federal Court upholds Grand Canyon Uranium Mining Ban

By Brenna Goth, The Republic, azcentral.com, September 30, 2014

A 20-year ban on uranium mining near the Grand Canyon will remain in place after the U.S. District Court in Arizona ruled Tuesday against mining groups that sued the federal government.

Mining associations and other groups with a stake in the industry argued that the U.S. Department of the Interior had erred in a 2012 decision to ban new mining for 20 years on more than 1 million acres of public land near the national park. They argued the ban was based on “overly cautious,” speculative environmental risks. The withdrawal decision was based on studies assessing potential impacts on water, soil and other resources.

SPECIAL REPORT: Abandoned uranium mines continue to haunt Navajos on reservation

The ban prohibits the exploration and development of new claims but does not affect previously approved mining.

 

 Photo credit, Don Bills/U.S. Geological Survey The Kanab North mine, north of Grand Canyon National Park, is not one of the mines covered under the 20-year ban, since it already exists. The U.S. District Court decision upholding the Interior Department's ban on new mines applies to new development only. Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2013/03/22/20-year-ban-new-uranium-mining-claims-grand-canyon-holds-court-148319


Photo credit, Don Bills/U.S. Geological Survey
The Kanab North mine, north of Grand Canyon National Park, is not one of the mines covered under the 20-year ban, since it already exists. The U.S. District Court decision upholding the Interior Department’s ban on new mines applies to new development only.
Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2013/03/22/20-year-ban-new-uranium-mining-claims-grand-canyon-holds-court-148319

 

Judge David Campbell heard oral arguments on Sept. 9 and ruled Tuesday that then-Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar did not violate the law when he chose to “err on the side of caution in protecting a national treasure,” even if he did not have “definitive information.”

An Interior Department spokesperson declined to comment.

A coalition of environmental groups and the Havasupai Tribe joined the lawsuit to defend the ban, sayingthe effects of uranium mining are long lasting and may not be fully known for decades.

“This is a great day for the Grand Canyon,” said Ted Zukoski, the lawyer representing those groups, adding that the department “really did its homework” with the risk assessments.

Mining groups have 60 days to appeal.

Laura Skaer, executive director of one of the plaintiffs, the American Exploration and Mining Association, said she would need time to review Campbell’s reasoning before deciding any next steps.

Uranium Mining Expansion in Southern Utah

Daneros uranium mine in southeastern Utah

Daneros uranium mine in southeastern Utah

Original article by Liz Thomas, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance

Scarred landscapes, contaminated water, and deadly gases are current reminders of the historic uranium mining and milling operations in southeastern Utah.  Now a Canadian mining corporation, Energy Fuels, is proposing to significantly expand its overall mining operation to increase ore production at its Daneros uranium mine in southeastern Utah.
The Daneros uranium mine, located in the heart of the Colorado Plateau, is surrounded by large expanses of spectacular wild lands.  Located five miles west of Natural Bridges National Monument, the uranium mine expansion is also near Cedar Mesa’s Grand Gulch, the Dark Canyon Wilderness Area, and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area’s Lake Powell.  These are areas enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of visitors from Utah and around the world, many of whom spend time camping, hiking, and enjoying scenic tours on the public lands surrounding the proposed mine site.

The Proposal
Energy Fuels is proposing to expand its existing mining operation from the current 4.5-acre operation at the Daneros mine to 46.3 acres (a ten-fold increase in surface disturbance).  The expansion includes the construction of new mining facilities at the nearby Bullseye and South Portal abandoned mine sites, installation of ventilation holes, and the construction of new access roads.  The company’s proposal states that over the next 20 years, 500,000 tons of ore could be produced at the expanded mining operation – an amount five times greater than what is permitted under the current Plan of Operations approved by the BLM in 2011.  For more detailed information on the company’s proposal, see the BLM’s press release.

Energy Fuels is pressuring the BLM to approve this major mine expansion even though the company closed down the Daneros uranium mine in October 2012.  This closure resulted from public backlash at the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster and the subsequent market drop in uranium prices.  The company has not yet re-opened the existing Daneros mine.

Historic Uranium Mining in Utah
Utah and the other states in the Four Corners region have a legacy of thousands of abandoned uranium mine sites.  These abandoned sites pose health, safety, and environmental risks to residents of the area, visitors, and wildlife, in the form of continued air and water contamination.  The federal government has a history of ignoring known sources of contamination and harm caused by the mining and milling of uranium, and has failed to notify uranium workers and the general public of these risks.

This sad history coupled with the significant risks inherent in uranium mining underscores the need for the BLM to conduct a comprehensive environmental analysis of the proposed Daneros uranium mine expansion.  The agency must disclose the potential impacts of expanded uranium mining on air and water quality, wildlife, wilderness, night skies, scenic viewsheds, cultural resources, and public health and safety.  Additionally, because the risks of mining don’t stop at the mine site, the agency must disclose the impacts associated with transporting and milling the uranium ore at the White Mesa Mill near Blanding, Utah.  Incredibly, even in light of the history and risks associated with uranium mining and milling, the BLM is not proposing to analyze the project in a comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement.

Uranium mining and milling is a dirty business, leaving a legacy of decades-old scars on the landscape of southern Utah. Accordingly, this proposed mine expansion should be denied.

Read more

White Mesa Uranium Mill Problems Provoke Legal Notice [Press Release]

For Immediate Release, January 29, 2014

Contact:  Anne Mariah Tapp, Grand Canyon Trust (512) 565-9906

Uranium Mill Problems Provoke Legal Notice

SALT LAKE CITY, UT— Ongoing violations of the Clean Air Act at the nation’s only operating uranium mill have prompted Grand Canyon Trust to file a 60-day notice of intent to sue Energy Fuels Resources, the owner of the White Mesa Mill, located near White Mesa and Blanding, Utah.

White Mesa Mill | Photo: Taylor McKinnon, Grand Canyon Trust

White Mesa Mill | Photo: Taylor McKinnon, Grand Canyon Trust

In the notice Grand Canyon Trust cites data showing that in 2012 and 2013 the annual average radon-222 emissions at the mill exceeded hazardous air pollutant standards. Exposure to radon-222 is linked to cancer, genetic defects, and increases in mortality. It further alleges that, during that same time period, mill owners operated six tailings impoundments when only two are allowed, and that two of those are larger than the maximum allowed size of 40 acres.

If a lawsuit is required to remedy problems, the Trust will ask a federal district court to impose upon Energy Fuels appropriate injunctive relief, civil penalties of up to $37,500 per day per violation, mitigation, and other costs.

“Our position is simple: Radiological pollution is dangerous, and uranium milling must comply with laws lessening that danger,” said Anne Mariah Tapp, attorney with Grand Canyon Trust.

Citing poor market conditions, Energy Fuels in December announced that it plans to close the mill in 2014 and potentially reopen it 2015. It also announced that it would shutter its Pinenut mine, located just north of Grand Canyon and, pursuant to a legal agreement with Grand Canyon Trust, the Havasupai Tribe and others, cease efforts to open its controversial Canyon mine.

“The mill’s closure presents Energy Fuels an opportunity to remedy problems,” said Tapp. “Those problems must be fixed before it reopens.”

The mill produces “yellowcake;” the pollution stems from processing and storage of mined ore and radioactive waste called “alternate feed” that is collected from sites across the U.S.

People and communities continue to be impacted by the Colorado Plateau’s uranium legacy, which incudes thousands of abandoned mine sites, polluted soil, air, and water. Federally funded uranium mill cleanups have been required near Moab, Tuba City, Shiprock, Mexican Hat, Monticello, and Uravan. The Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, whose reservation includes land just a few miles from the mill, has repeatedly voiced concern over the mill’s air, dust and water pollution.

“Communities and taxpayers for decades have shouldered the high costs of radiological pollution in our region,” said Taylor McKinnon, director of energy with Grand Canyon Trust. “It’s one of America’s worst environmental injustices, and it’s imperative that we now fix rather than further that legacy.”

Original article by Taylor McKinnon, Grand Canyon Trust