Given it is one of the great natural wonders of the world, it may be hard to imagine there are political moves in America to allow the mining of uranium in – of all places – the Grand Canyon area in Arizona. It is to the credit of the Obama administration that they would like to ban all such activity in the area for the next 20 years.
While hardly a representative photo of what we might expect should the ban fail to be upheld, the photograph shows a small uranium mine. What it does not show, of course, is the grave pollution risk to the water by uranium waste. Even so, it is hardly a glorious view to add to the magnificent vistas of the Grand Canyon!
As reported in the Los Angeles Times article Grand Canyon and Mining, the proposed ban is opposed by both the mining industry and, unsurprisingly, by Republican Party members in both Houses of the US Administration. The steep rise in the prices metal during the last decade has so far led mining companies to register interest in exploiting thousands of new sites across the United States, including several hundred near the Grand Canyon.
Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, put a two-year ban on even seeking permission for mining in three areas around the Grand Canyon back in 2009. Since that time, the US Geological Survey has found that any such mining could increase the risk of radioactive material and heavy metals finding their way into the Colorado River which runs through the Canyon and is a favoured destination for thrill-seekers and holidaymakers from around the world. Finally, on 26th October 2011 the Bureau of Land Management released its Final Environmental Impact Statement which backs Salazar’s moratorium and advises extending it for 20 years.
While praised by Arizona congressman Raul Grijaiva as likely to maintain the Canyon as a tourist attraction, Republican lawmakers led by Arizona senator and one-time Presidential candidate John McCain have opposed the ban. Instead, they have proposed a new mining act which would effectively overturn the ban completely and demand Congressional approval for any moratorium against mining plans.
For any Americans in doubt about which way to vote in the forthcoming Presidential elections, the prospect of radioactive rivers should, we hope, make it clear to avoid any such Republicans!
- Row over plans to mine Grand Canyon (newscientist.com)
- Arizona Businesses Tell Washington: It’s the Economy! (prweb.com)
- Green Blog: Interior Backs Mining Limits in Grand Canyon (green.blogs.nytimes.com)
- The Grand Canyon and Mining – NYTimes.com (wpvins.wordpress.com)
- ‘Unearthly’ beauty tops jobs: Obama freezes mining near Grand Canyon (csmonitor.com)
- The threat of new uranium mines around the Grand Canyon is still alive. (savethenvironment.com)
- Grand Canyon and Worldview Discussions (inchristus.wordpress.com)
- Ban on Grand Canyon uranium mining nearly finalized (summitcountyvoice.com)