Arizona slammed for allowing uranium mine that jeopardizes Grand Canyon tribe’s water
“Uranium contamination in a system like this is eternal and while the mining company can walk away, the Havasupai tribe cannot. This is, and always has been, their home.
Indigenous activists and environmentalists on Friday condemned an Arizona agency’s approval of a key license for a uranium mine near the Grand Canyon that opponents say threatens the land, water, wildlife and ancestral bond of Native Americans protect a place they have called home for centuries.
“Neither regulators nor the uranium industry can guarantee that mining will not permanently damage the Grand Canyon’s precious aquifers and springs.”
The Arizona Republic reports that the state’s Department of Environmental Quality on Thursday issued an aquifer protection plan permit for Energy Fuels Resources’ Pinyon Plain mine, located about 10 miles south of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon in the Kaibab National Forest.
Conservationists and tribesmen have long opposed the mine, which has been in various stages of planning and preparation since 1984, but from which no uranium has yet been mined. The Havasupai people, some of whom live in a nearby canyon, say the project jeopardizes their only source of drinking water.
“Uranium mining in the Grand Canyon watershed threatens the enduring legacy of this landscape and jeopardizes the entire water supply of the Havasupai people,” said Michè Lozano, program manager for the Grand Canyon. Arizona for the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), in a statement, warning of the “incredible threats uranium mining poses to the limited underground springs that feed the canyon’s streams and waterways” .
The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality last night approved an aquifer protection permit for a uranium mine near @GrandCanyonNPS. Such a mine would threaten the landscape and jeopardize the entire water supply of the Havasupai people. https://t.co/f2o9FTTyZf
— National Parks Conservation Association (@NPCA) April 29, 2022
According to the NPCA:
The mine…has a history of flooding as it depletes the shallow underground aquifers that express themselves at the South Rim Springs. It also threatens to permanently contaminate deep aquifers that feed Havasu Creek and other springs. The approval comes despite calls from the Havasupai tribe and conservation groups to close the Pinyon Plain mine given its risks to tribal water and cultural resources…
In late 2016, the drilling of a mine shaft pierced shallow aquifers, increasing the water pumped from the mine from 151,000 gallons in 2015 to 1.4 million gallons in 2016. Since then, the inflows ranged from 8.8 million gallons in 2017 to 10.76 million gallons in 2019; most recently the mine absorbed 8,261,406 gallons of groundwater in 2021.
Since 2016, the uranium dissolved in this water has consistently exceeded federal toxicity limits by more than 300% and arsenic levels by more than 2,800%.
“Neither regulators nor the uranium industry can guarantee that mining will not permanently damage the Grand Canyon’s precious aquifers and springs,” said Taylor McKinnon of the Center for Biological Diversity. “This permit strenuously ignores the science showing the potential for pollution of deep aquifers, and in a region still plagued by seven decades of pollution by the uranium industry, to risk more, as this permit does, is dangerous.”
Stating that “uranium mines do not belong in the complex groundwater systems that surround the Grand Canyon”, Amber Reimondo, director of energy for the Grand Canyon Trust, said that “uranium contamination in a system like this is eternal and as long as the mining company can walk away, the Havasupai tribe cannot.This is, and always has been, their home.
The AZ permits a uranium mine near Grand Canyon National Park against the wishes of the Havasupai tribe, “some of whose members live in a side canyon of the Grand Canyon and have long feared that mining could contaminate their only source of water”. Going through @Debkrol https://t.co/i0nHQigGP4
— Grand Canyon Trust (@GrandCanynTrust) April 29, 2022
Havasupai tribal leaders have long opposed uranium mining on land from which their ancestors were ethnically cleansed to make way for white tourists before being forced to dehumanize railroad work.
“We want to ensure that our future generations have clean air, clean water and a happy life. That’s all we ask.
One of the staunchest opponents of Havasupai mining, the late tribal chairman Rex Tilousi, believed that his people “had a responsibility to protect and preserve this land and this water for those to come.”
“The ancient rock writing in our canyon tells us to protect this place,” Tilousi said at a prayer rally in 2018. “The canyon is not ours. We belong to the canyon, to the Earth, to the water. He created us and gave us life. We are fighting for our lives and for those who are yet to come.
Carletta Tilousi, Rex’s niece and a member of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council, spoke out against uranium mining at an Earth Day rally in Phoenix last week.
“Native Americans, we’ve struggled this far and so long, and we don’t need it anymore,” she said. “We want to ensure that our future generations have clean air, clean water and a happy life. That’s all we ask.
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