Uranium Mining v. Biodiversity in Grand Canyon

Mining has been banned within the Grand Canyon national park since President Roosevelt declared it a national monument in 1908. But since 2003, foreign companies have submitted 2,215 claims to prospect on the edge of the canyon.  Ken Salazar, the secretary of the interior, temporarily withdrew 1m acres of land from exploration in 2009 to allow time for an environmental assessment. Salazar must decide by July whether to ban “mineral entry” for two-thirds of the claims for the next 20 years…

Taylor McKinnon, campaigns director of public lands at the Centre for Biological Diversity, said the expansion of mining would threaten the park’s delicate ecosystem that ranges from desert scrub in the parched canyon to the Californian condors that wheel above the craggy outcrops.  He said: “The Grand Canyon is an international treasure and known for its breathtaking expanses. Its isolated seeps, springs and caves harbour a remarkable diversity of life, including species found nowhere else on earth. Uranium mining puts those species in the crosshairs.”

Mining companies have been drawn to the Grand Canyon area since the 1940s, because of large quantities of high-grade uranium that fuelled the nuclear weapons and nuclear power industries in the US.  But fast-paced nuclear power programmes in countries such as China and Korea are fuelling a new rush for “hard rock”, and have sent uranium prices soaring from $7.10 a pound in 2001, to $63.88 a pound in 2011.

Vane Minerals, a UK-based company, has submitted approximately 700 claims. Kristopher Hefton, the company’s director and chief operating officer, said: “The deposits are among the highest-grade deposits that you can find in the United States, so they are a good target for exploration and mining.”  Denison Mines, based in Canada, already operates one mine in the area with plans to reopen three further mines that were approved in the 1980s without being subject to the environmental review. Denison recently told investors that it will increase production by at least 10 million pounds a year by 2020, some of which will be destined for a new nuclear plant in the United Arab Emirates…

Exceprts from, Felicity Carus, Demand for uranium threatens Grand Canyon biodiversity, Guardian, Feb. 17, 2011

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s