By Klee Benally | www.indigenousaction.org
Grand Canyon, AZ — Energy Fuels Resources Inc. has been forced to halt two controversial uranium mines near the Grand Canyon. Citing falling uranium prices, Energy Fuels will also be temporarily closing it’s White Mesa Mill in Blanding, Utah. The White Mesa Mill is currently the only active uranium processing plant in the US.
The two Energy Fuels mines are located within a million-acre “mineral withdrawal” zone created by the Obama administration in 2012 to protect the Grand Canyon’s watershed. The withdrawal prohibits new mining claims but pre-existing claims were allowed.
For decades Indigenous Peoples, community members, and environmental groups have worked together to protect lands in the Southwest from uranium mining threats.
On Thursday, November 21, 2013, a group called Northern Arizona University (NAU) Against Uranium held an event called “YouthSpeak in Defense of the Canyon” in Flagstaff, Arizona. The NAU students addressed their exclusion of people born after 1986 from the public review process for Energy Fuels’ “Canyon” uranium mine. The students joined with members of the Havasupai Nation to demand a new Environmental Impact Statement for the mine.
Watch videos from the event here:
On November 5, 2013, due to a 2012 lawsuit brought on by the Havasupai Nation, Sierra Club, Grand Canyon Trust, and Center for Biological Diversity, Energy Fuels agreed to temporarily halt development of it’s Canyon Mine. The Canyon Mine, located 6 miles from the Grand Canyon, still poses a critical threat to Red Butte, a site held sacred by the Havasupai Nation.
The lawsuit asserts that the U.S. Forest Service did not conduct adequate tribal consultation and failed to update a 1986 federal environmental review. The Canyon Mine is located within the Red Butte Traditional Cultural Property, which the Forest Service designated in 2010 for its religious and cultural importance to Indigenous Peoples.
According to the Sierra Club, the Canyon Mine, “threatens cultural values, wildlife, and water, including aquifers feeding Grand Canyon’s springs.”
This summer a group known as the Momma Bear’s Brigade established a protest camp near the Grand Canyon to stop the Canyon Mine.
On August 30, 2013, Energy Fuels acquired Strathmore Minerals Corp. Strathmore held a 60% interest in the proposed Roca Honda uranium mine located near Grants, New Mexico. The Roca Honda mine has long been controversial as it threatens to desecrate Mt. Taylor, a mountain held holy by Diné (Navajo), Acoma, Hopi, and other Indigenous Nations.
According to Energy Fuels site, “The Company believes that significant synergies could be achieved by shipping Roca Honda’s [uranium] resources to the Company’s White Mesa Mill. Sumitomo Corporation of Japan holds the other 40% interest in Roca Honda.”
According to Energy Fuels Inc. “…as Japan begins to restart their reactor fleet and new nuclear units come online worldwide, the supply of uranium for new and existing nuclear units may become less certain,” Energy Fuels Inc. believes that this could result in “potential increases in the price of uranium.”
Energy Fuels states that they expect that “additional project cancellations and deferrals may be announced in the coming months.”