The Grand Canyon is Under Threat

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

From the highest mountaintops to the deepest canyons, public lands in the United States are threatened by mismanagement, corruption, and an endless flow of money from industry into the pockets of government leaders.

The Grand Canyon National Park is one of our country’s national treasures. A 2012 study suggested that the Colorado River began carving it 70 million years ago. It is the second deepest canyon in the world. Given its age and significance, it may come as a shock that uranium mining just might start taking place around the Grand Canyon.

In July 2019, the Trump administration created the White House Nuclear Fuel Working Group. The Western Values Project characterizes the group as a “working group reviewing how to support the uranium and nuclear energy industry.” The memorandum which announces the creation of the group states that the “uranium industry faces significant challenges in producing uranium domestically and that "this is an issue of national security.” It also states that domestic mining is part of the nuclear supply chain.

 Some of the nation’s highest-grade uranium ore is within the Grand Canyon region. That is why the region has been a “focal point of mining interests in the past,” according to a report by the Grand Canyon Trust. However, the Grand Canyon is also important culturally and environmentally. The Navajo Nation, which lies east of the Grand Canyon National Park, still has hundreds of abandoned uranium mines that contaminate the land and water. “Across the Colorado Plateau, uranium mining and milling have left a toxic and expensive legacy,” the report states.

The Heritage Foundation recommends opening the Grand Canyon up to uranium mining

The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, recommends restoring the 1984 Arizona Wilderness Act, which would repeal a 2012 decision to stop mineral mining on more than one million acres of wilderness and public lands across the Grand Canyon National Park. Repealing that decision benefits uranium mining companies because they would be allowed access to uranium deposits on land that is federally protected.

“Should the Trump administration opt to side with the extreme measures recommended by an industry-funded think tank like the Heritage Foundation, the future of one of America’s most cherished national parks will be at risk,” said Jayson O’Neill, Deputy Director of Western Values Project. 

“Our public lands, waterways and national parks are far too important to allow industry-backed groups to dictate policy, but that has been the hallmark of the Trump presidency.”

Uranium mining is not needed for the economy nor the nation’s defense

Uranium companies and the politicians in their back pockets claim that uranium mining is a matter of economic and national security. Outdoor recreation and tourism in the Grand Canyon region support more than 9,000 jobs, contribute over $938 million a year to areas around the region, and generate over $160 million annually in state and local tax revenues. Uranium mining would be a threat to what outdoor recreation and tourism contribute to the economy.

The U.S. has already mined enough uranium to meet the nation’s defense and energy needs, according to the Grand Canyon Trust report. In addition, the U.S. can obtain uranium from Canada and Australia, which has better quality uranium. In 1989 the Commerce Department stated that “the richest and most accessible uranium deposits are not found in the United States...the resources of Canada and Australia have higher uranium content and a lower production cost per unit,” according to a CNBC report.

What you can do

There is something you can do to let Congress know where you stand about uranium mining in the Grand Canyon. Sign Credo Action’s petition which urges Congress to permanently protect the area from uranium mining.

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