Elijah Zarlin / Credo Action & The New York Times & EarthWorks Action – 2011-05-02 00:01:07
ACTION ALERT: Deadline Wednesday: Tell the BLM to Ban Destructive Uranium Mining at the Grand Canyon
Elijah Zarlin / Credo Action
WASHINGTON, DC (April 30, 2011) — The precious lands and vital watershed of the Grand Canyon are threatened by 1,100 mining claims within five miles. Uranium mining rips up huge tracts of land to extract radioactive material for use in nuclear weapons and nuclear power plants.
For the past two years, the Grand Canyon has been protected from these ravages. But now, the temporary mining moratorium is set to expire. Credo Action is requesting that concerned individuals submit a public comment to support a 20-year ban and protect the Grand Canyon from the uranium mining rush. (See New York Times story below.)
The Grand Canyon’s fragile ecosystem, stunning beauty and vital water supply are threatened by 1,100 new mining claims that have been filed within five miles of this priceless “crown jewel.” The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is considering a 20-year ban on mining to protect the Grand Canyon’s entire one-million acre watershed. But there are other proposals on the table, and industry lobbyists are encouraging BLM to open the floodgates for the uranium mining rush.
It’s essential that we urge the BLM to protect the Grand Canyon. The Bureau of Land Management will be taking public comments on the plan to allow uranium mining in the Grand Canyon. The comment period ends this Wednesday.
The high price of uranium makes its extraction extremely lucrative for mining companies, but shockingly, the practice is regulated by the antiquated 1872 Mining Law which has no environmental standards to limit the devastation and radioactive damage that results to wildlife, soil, ground and surface water. In fact, the law actually makes exploitative mining a priority over all other uses of public lands.
The legacy of mining in the Grand Canyon has already wrought lasting damage to surrounding areas and tribal communities, who have banned mining on all their lands.
If mining companies are allowed to move ahead with their new claims, the damage to the local wildlands and habitat would be extreme. And with the huge risk that polluted water will run into the Colorado river — which supplies water to cities including Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix and Tucson — this mining literally poses a risk to the health of nearly 30 million people.2
It’s tragic that, as we observe the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster this week, and as the Fukushima disaster continues to unfold in Japan, the thirst for nuclear energy and power would now threaten one of our most precious places, and millions of people who depend on it.
The two-year ban came as a result of intense public pressure to stop dangerous uranium mining. That’s what we need to help show again. Please submit a public comment now.
Thank you for protecting one of our most precious places.
Elijah Zarlin is the Campaign Manager for CREDO Action from Working Assets
The Grand Canyon Uranium Rush
The New York Times
NEW YORK (March 7, 2011) — In July 2009, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar imposed a two-year halt to uranium exploration and mining on one million acres around the Grand Canyon. The moratorium was a much-needed timeout to a rush of prospecting claims near the canyon, most of them by Canadian and British companies. The rush was fueled by two things: an increase in uranium prices and the wide-open exploitation allowed on public lands by the harmful, antiquated 1872 mining law.
The Interior Department has now prepared four possible alternatives for how to proceed. The public has another 30 days to comment. The only sensible alternative is the most sweeping one: withdrawing one million acres around the Grand Canyon from mining and prospecting for the next 20 years.
Restricting mining in this area would have little effect on Americaâ€™s uranium supply, a vast majority of which comes from Wyoming and New Mexico.
Setting that land off-limits would protect the delicate ecosystem in and around the Grand Canyon. It would also eliminate the risk of radioactive materials, disturbed by mining, leaching into the aquifer and the Colorado River. That would affect the Havasupai Indians, who live in the canyon itself, and 27 million people who draw water from the river in Nevada and California.
The prospecting free-for-all that followed the rise in uranium prices is yet another reminder of why the country needs to reform the mining law of 1872. That law allows free access to stake mining claims on public land and gives mineral extraction priority over other uses. This perhaps made sense in 1872, but in 2011 it is simply irresponsible, especially because, under the law, mining companies are obliged to pay no royalties to federal, state or local governments.
Congress has talked for years about reforming this law only to have the effort blocked by Western senators. The majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, has long been the leading opponent. Real reform would include strict environmental regulation and real royalties — at least the 5 percent royalty called for in the presidentâ€™s new budget. That would be best for the environment and for Americaâ€™s taxpayers.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
Uranium Mining 101
From the fact sheet:
(March 29, 2011) — Though uranium is found naturally in the environment, it can be extremely toxic when mined and processed. When uranium is mined, other radioactive decay elements such as radium and thorium are released.
Exposure to these radioactive elements can cause lung cancer, skin cancer, bone cancer, leukemia, kidney damage and birth defects. Recent research has found an association between exposure to mine waste and autoimmune dysfunction, including diabetes.
Uranium mining can also release other toxic heavy metals such as arsenic, selenium, mercury and cadmium. Uranium has been used primarily for nuclear weapons and electric power generation, although it has also been used in various other products such as copper and nickel alloy production.
In the United States, uranium is mined both at conventional surface mines as well as in-situ leach operations, which for the last 30 years have been the primary source of uranium production.
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