Tag Archives: Grand Canyon Trust

6/26/2012 Forest Service Approves Grand Canyon Uranium Mine Despite 26-year-old Environmental Review

The Havasuapi refuse to become the next millennium’s world terrorists by allowing mega nuclear industrial complex mining industries to mine in the Grand Canyon.6/26/2012 Forest Service Approves Grand Canyon Uranium Mine Despite 26-year-old Environmental Review “>

10/13/2011 Gallup Independent: Tribe: Public lands threatened by copper, uranium mining

10/13/2011 Tribe: Public lands threatened by copper, uranium mining By Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau, Gallup Independent: WINDOW ROCK – Representatives of the San Carlos Apache Tribe received support Tuesday from Navajo Nation Council delegates in their opposition to a bill which would allow a subsidiary of foreign mining giants Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton to acquire more than 2,400 acres in Tonto National Forest for a massive underground copper mine. U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz.-1, is sponsor of H.R. 1904: Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act of 2011. The land exchange would require Congress to lift a decades old mining ban within the 760 acres of federal lands known as Oak Flat, which were set aside from mining in 1955 by executive order of the Eisenhower administration.

Impacts from the mining operation will result in the “wholesale desecration of the sacred site and traditional cultural property that is encompassed by the Oak Flat, Apache Leap, and Gaan Canyon area,” San Carlos Apache Chairman Terry Rambler stated in written testimony submitted in June to the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands.

“Chich’il Bildagoteel,” or Oak Flat, is home to all powerful Mountain Spirits, or Gaan, and a place of ancient settlements and burial sites. Because the Apache people’s relationship to the land is intertwined with their religious and cultural identity, it is believed “the potential harms to be visited upon this holy place threaten the cultural extinction of the Apache.”

Steve Titla, San Carlos general counsel, and Susan B. Montgomery, special legal counsel to the tribe, presented Chairman Rambler’s concerns to the Nabik’iyati’ Committee. Rambler was in D.C. to meet with Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., on the mining issue to ask him not to hold a hearing on the bill when it comes to his committee, Montgomery said.

“We should be sending a strong message to Representative Gosar, saying, ‘You’re not going to have our vote if you continue pursuing this bill,’” Shiprock Delegate Russell Begaye said. He suggested that Navajo and other Arizona tribes make that same proclamation. “I think those types of action are in order.”

Gosar also drew criticism Wednesday when he and Sen. John McCain along with other Arizona and Utah congressional leaders introduced the Northern Arizona Mining Continuity Act of 2011, which would bar the Department of the Interior from withdrawing approximately 1 million acres surrounding the Grand Canyon from mining consideration for the next 20 years, as proposed by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in June.

The effect of the bill would be to allow uranium and other mining operations to go forward as soon as possible.

“Senator McCain and Congressman Gosar have turned their backs on thousands of constituents living in northern Arizona who oppose uranium mining,” Roger Clark of Grand Canyon Trust said.

“Havasupai object to their sole source of water being contaminated. All five of the Native nations surrounding the Grand Canyon have banned uranium mining due to its lethal history in the region. And hundreds of businesses, local governments, ranchers, and sporting groups support Secretary Salazar’s proposed ban on new claims because it protects their livelihoods. Who are these elected representatives protecting, other than foreign-owned nuclear industries?” he said.

In respect to copper mine, Begaye said since the Navajo Nation deals with BHP Billiton, they should send the company a resolution or letter to say, “We are opposing your desecration mining in this area.” The bill allows for the company to voluntarily withdraw from the land exchange, effectively terminating the land withdrawal, he said.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the Forest Service would convey the 2,400 acres to Resolution Copper in exchange for company-owned land of an equivalent value. Of the company land, about 1,200 acres would become part of the National Forest System while about 4,200 acres would be administered by the Bureau of Land Management.

The bill also directs the Forest Service to sell around 550 acres to the town of Superior, Ariz. Proceeds from the sale, estimated at roughly $1 million, would be spent to acquire other lands. Begaye said purchase of the land by the Nations could deter part of the proposed action.

Resolution Copper has circulated various job figures related to the mining project, however, “The job number changes as often as I change my suit,” Montgomery said. “We do think the jobs would be minimal at the location and minimal for the residents of Arizona.”

Montgomery said it is speculated that Resolution will employ a fully automated “mine of the future” technology, similar to what Rio Tinto recently launched in Australia, which allows it to control 11 mines with robotized drilling, automated haul trucks and driverless ore trains from an operations center 800 miles away.

“We are speculating because they keep a lot of this very close to the vest,” she said. “It will probably be run out of somewhere in Utah where Rio Tinto’s operations are. This is not going to be jobs to benefit the local people very much.”

In the same vein, Arizona Rep. Raúl Grijalva challenged Gosar, McCain and other Arizona mining bill co-sponsors “to explain why they support polluting the Grand Canyon area for the sake of mining company profits that rarely stay in Arizona and in some cases flow directly overseas.”

“The only people who support this are mining industry lobbyists and a handful of lawmakers ready to carry their water,” Grijalva said. “It’s cynical to tell the people of Arizona in a down economy that this bill will help them when we all know these jobs won’t be local, the profits will go out of state or overseas, and the uranium will be exported to the highest bidder.”

Titla said Begaye’s idea of sending a message to Gosar was a great idea. “I think that we can make a renewed effort to tribes to send that kind of message to Representative Gosar because in the recent redistricting, the San Carlos Tribe stood with all the other tribes in the state legislative district. I think that if those maps are passed by the Department of Justice … once we get that done we can stand together and send that kind of message.”

Thirteen tribes in addition to Navajo oppose H.R. 1904 or its predecessor bills, including Hopi, Zuni, Hualapai, Jicarilla and White Mountain Apache nations. Resolution has sought passage of the bill since around 2005.

Navajo Nation Council Speaker Johnny Naize, who was asked to sponsor a supporting resolution, said, “This issue is very, very important to us. As you heard, we are also fighting for the San Francisco Peaks, Dooko’oo’sliid … We stand on what we believe, and we believe in all our sacred sites.”

7/26/2011 Gallup Independent: Navajo looks to Utah on water settlement

7/26/2011 Gallup Independent: Navajo looks to Utah on water settlement By Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau: WINDOW ROCK – The Navajo Nation is moving ahead on settling its water rights claims in the Upper Basin of Utah with or without the federal government’s participation, according to Stanley Pollack, assistant attorney general. During a recent presentation to the Nabiki’yati’ Committee, Pollack said Navajo has had very favorable discussions with the state of Utah, and currently is in the process of finalizing proposed legislation to introduce to Congress so it can approve the settlement and authorize the various drinking water projects associated with it.

“We do not have any federal participation in those discussions. We have asked repeatedly for the federal government to be involved,” Pollack said. “The federal government’s attitude is ‘We are doing all we can for the Navajo Nation in New Mexico and Arizona,’ so they’ve given short shrift to Utah. We are not deterred by that. We plan to move forward with or without the United States at this point.”

The Navajo Nation’s settlement of its claims to the San Juan River Basin, agreed to in 2005, is before the decree court in Aztec, which must rule by the end of 2013. The $1 billion settlement includes the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project.

The Nation also approved the $800 million Northeastern Arizona Indian Water Rights Settlement last November, which included three water projects for Navajo, but that settlement was deemed too expensive and has since been revised. The new plan is now being reviewed by Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Arizona, and the Department of the Interior and could require further modification.

The Utah settlement would recognize a right for the Navajo Nation to deplete up to 81,500 acre-feet per year from the Upper Basin. “The Upper Basin in Utah includes all water supplies that the Navajo Nation has access to in Utah – Lake Powell, San Juan River, groundwater, etcetera,” Pollack said.

The settlement would recognize the right of the Navajo Nation to divert and store a maximum of 435 cubic feet per second, “so the upper theoretical limit for the water right is potentially as much as 314,851 acre-feet per year.”

Pollack said that when they know they have a settlement the Utah congressional delegation is willing to push through Congress, they will come back to Council and ask for approval of the terms.

Norman K. Johnson, who Pollack said is basically his counterpart in Utah, stated in March at a Utah Water Users Workshop that the state is close to an agreement with the Ute Tribe and is working with the Navajo Nation. Both settlements involve water from the Colorado River, and the settlement with Navajo calls for $156 million in projects.

One challenge for the Colorado River portion is “fish flows.” The Colorado River Basin is home to four endangered fish: the humpback chub, Colorado pikeminnow, razorback sucker and bonytail chub. Johnson stated that Upper Basin states have chosen to be proactive and have implemented a recovery plan for Colorado River endangered species.

That plan gives Utah and three other states an opportunity to be full partners in recovery implementation and also means Utah could continue to develop its resources while recovery efforts proceed.

Adequate stream flow is critical to recovery of the endangered species, and the recovery plan seeks a balance between the needs of fish and water users, Johnson said. Noncompliance with the plan means both existing and future diversions may be in question and could be prohibited.

Given use projections, the “pinch point” for flow is Reach 3 on the Green River. While flow is generally sufficient, Johnson said that if the Lake Powell Pipeline water right is exercised as a Flaming Gorge storage right with a point of re-diversion at Lake Powell, then flows would be protective through Reach 3. However, it might require a “limited” modification to existing in-stream law.

Utah-based Blue Castle Holdings has proposed to build a two-unit nuclear power plant in Green River, Utah. The state water engineer at the Division of Water Rights is currently reviewing applications to allow the transfer of water rights for 29,600 acre feet of water per year from Kane County and 24,000 acre feet per year from San Juan County to Emery County, the location of the proposed plant.

The counties would lease their water rights to Blue Castle and use the funds to develop small surface water projects in their water conservancy districts, according to Grand Canyon Trust, which has joined HEAL Utah and other conservation organizations to voice concern to the state’s water engineer over the transfer of water rights to facilitate construction of the nuclear plant. Approximately 48 million gallons of water per day would be extracted from the river to cool the plant.

In 2009, Blue Castle signed a memorandum of understanding with Page Electric Utility, outlining the utility’s potential participation as an equity owner. The utility provides retail electricity services in Page and the surrounding area.

6/20/2011 Center for Biological Diversity: 1 Million Acres of Grand Canyon Watershed Protected From Uranium Mining

Center for Biological Diversity June 20, 2011 For Immediate Release Contact: Randy Serraglio, (520) 784-1504 1 Million Acres of Grand Canyon Watershed Protected From Uranium Mining: GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK— Interior Secretary Ken Salazar extended interim protections from uranium mining today for Grand Canyon’s 1-million-acre watershed through the end of 2011; the secretary also announced his support for a 20-year mineral withdrawal across the same area. Both protections ban new claims and block new mining on existing, unproven claims. The announcement quells fears that a two-year mining prohibition issued by Salazar in July 2009 would expire, opening the door to new mining claims and resulting mine development. Public lands around Grand Canyon National Park have been ground zero for new uranium mining that threatens to industrialize iconic wildlands and permanently pollute aquifers feeding Grand Canyons springs and streams.

“The world would never forgive the permanent pollution of Grand Canyon’s precious aquifers and springs or the industrialization of its surrounding wildlands,” said Randy Serraglio of the Center for Biological Diversity. “The only sure way to prevent pollution of the Grand Canyon is to prevent uranium mining, and today’s action makes important progress toward that goal.”

Salazar today directed the Bureau of Land Management to designate the withdrawal of the full 1-million-acre watershed from new mining claims as its preferred alternative in its ongoing environmental analysis of the issue, scheduled to be released in the fall.

“This is good news for the Grand Canyon, but we are disappointed that Secretary Salazar continues to show such enthusiasm for the mining of existing claims,” said Serraglio. “We hope the ‘caution, wisdom and science’ cited by the secretary as being so important in managing this precious area will lead to strong decisions to protect it from further pollution by uranium mining.”

Uranium pollution already plagues the Grand Canyon region. Proposals for new mining have prompted protests, litigation and proposed legislation. Scientists, tribal and local governments, and businesses have voiced opposition to new mining operations. Dozens of new mines threaten to industrialize stunning and often sacred wildlands, destroy wildlife habitat and permanently pollute or deplete aquifers feeding Grand Canyon’s biologically rich springs.

The segregation and withdrawal would prohibit new mining claims and mining on claims without “valid existing rights” to mine. Several claims within the withdrawal area that predate the 2009 segregation order will be grandfathered in; those are still vulnerable to mining.

In 2009 the Bureau of Land Management allowed mining to resume at the Arizona 1 mine within the withdrawal area and immediately north of Grand Canyon without first updating 1980s-era environmental reviews. The Havasupai Tribe, the Kaibab Band of Paiute Indians, the Center, Sierra Club and Grand Canyon Trust challenged that mine’s reopening in federal court — one of four lawsuits brought by the Center relating to uranium mining in the region since 2008. That suit is ongoing.

“Grand Canyon and the surrounding areas are some of the most recognized and prized landscapes in the United States. Allowing further uranium mining would cause untold damage and leave future generations asking why we didn’t do more to stop it,” Serraglio said. “That’s why we’ll keep defending the Grand Canyon and working to reform the antiquated 1872 mining law so that federal agencies finally have clear authority to deny mining proposals that threaten irretrievable damage to our public lands.”

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5/15/2011 AZ Daily Sun: Uranium report ripped by Coconino County board

Uranium report ripped by Coconino County board by CYNDY COLE Sun Staff Reporter azdailysun.com | Posted: Sunday, May 15, 2011 5:20 am: Local conservation groups and the Coconino County Board of Supervisors have found what they call “serious” flaws in a federal analysis weighing the risks and benefits of uranium mining here. The Coconino County Board of Supervisors, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, Grand Canyon Wildlands Council and Grand Canyon Trust are all questioning estimates that mining in northern Arizona could employ hundreds directly and thousands indirectly — saying those figures appear greatly inflated. These groups all support putting federal land bordering the Grand Canyon off-limits to new uranium mines for 20 years. It’s a scenario that would allow perhaps 11 existing mines to open instead of 30 and end new exploration rather than permitting more than 700 sites to be explored.

These questions have growing significance this summer because a 2-year-old moratorium on new uranium mining issued by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar expires in mid-July, opening the door for mining exploration to resume across about 1 million acres.

An Interior spokeswoman said she did not know when Salazar might make a decision on the issue.

GROUNDWATER HARD TO TRACK

“The problem with this area is that there are more unknowns than knowns — especially north of the canyon, there is a huge area where the science has not been done to determine how groundwater is moving,” said Alicyn Gitlin, of the Sierra Club.

She raised the example of the drinking water for the Grand Canyon, which is supplied by a spring on the northern side of the canyon.

When snow melts on the North Rim most years, the water quality in the springs gets cloudy, raising an evident connection between events on the surface and water quality.

Estimates of how much uranium ore could come from each mine appear to be overstated by a factor of four in the long analysis (about the size of three Flagstaff phone books), said one consultant.

Projections on how much the ore could be worth into the future appear volatile, and determining who benefits from the industry is problematic, economic development consultant Richard Merritt wrote to the Interior Department on behalf of the Grand Canyon Trust.

“… inaccuracies in modeling the economic impact of the withdrawal … cause us to seriously question the veracity of the final conclusions …” Merritt wrote.

Federal agencies didn’t adequately weigh the risks of lasting aquifer contamination related to uranium mining, the four conservation groups wrote.

“(The analysis) avoids discussion of the monumental tasks and hundreds of millions or billions of dollars required to clean up deep aquifer contamination, assuming it is even possible. Commenting organizations raised this issue in scoping. Neither the federal government nor industry can guarantee that uranium mining would not deplete or contaminate aquifers,” they stated.

They raised other uranium-mining-related contamination in the Southwest, and drew a comparison to the Gulf oil spill.

“In their permitting of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil drilling, Interior Department agencies repeatedly dismissed the possibility of a deepwater oil spill and assumed that response resources and systems were adequate to prevent significant environmental harm in the event that a spill did occur,” they wrote.

DOMESTIC USE NOT GUARANTEED

The Coconino County Board of Supervisors unanimously signed a letter in April asking that a lot of federal land in Coconino County be put off-limits to uranium mining, raising concerns about the impacts to tourism and questions about cleanup in case of an ore truck overturning.

The county cited “hot spots” of radioactivity at former mines, as uncovered in tests by the U.S. Geological Survey a few years ago, and a mine on standby for more than 20 years that had not been closed.

The board contended that uranium jobs were possibly counted multiple times, but that tourism revenues might be undercounted, and raised complaints that monitoring for radioactive materials along haul routes into Fredonia, Flagstaff, Page and Cameron wouldn’t be adequate.

The agency noted that it might feel somewhat differently about the risks if there was a guarantee that the uranium mined from the Colorado Plateau were to end up supplying power in the United States, but there is no such guarantee.

“There is entirely too much risk, too many unknowns and too many identified impacts to justify threatening one of the most important U.S. landmarks and one of the most world-renowned national parks to justify the relatively small economic benefit associated with mining of uranium in the Grand Canyon region,” the supervisors stated.

5/15/2011 Washington Examiner: Critics blast report on Grand Canyon uranium mining

Washington Examiner, Published on Washington Examiner (http://washingtonexaminer.com) . Critics blast report on Grand Canyon uranium mining: Conservation groups and officials in a northern Arizona county say there are serious flaws in a new federal analysis of the risks and benefits of uranium mining near the Grand Canyon. The Coconino County Board of Supervisors questioned the report’s conclusion that mining will employ hundreds of people and support thousands indirectly. The Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, Grand Canyon Wildlands Council and the Grand Canyon Trust agree. The conservationists also worry that water quality could be affected. These groups all support putting federal land bordering the Grand Canyon off-limits to new uranium mines for 20 years. That would still allow perhaps 11 existing mines but end new exploration that could permit more than 700 sites to be explored. Their opinions were contained in responses to an environmental study obtained by the Arizona Daily Sun in Flagstaff.

These questions have growing significance because a 2-year-old moratorium on new uranium mining issued by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar expires in mid-July, opening the door for mining exploration to resume across about 1 million acres.

An Interior spokeswoman said she did not know when Salazar might make a decision on the issue.

Representatives in Washington County, Utah, are already on record saying they want the federal government to allow more uranium mining. They say it would not cause environmental damage and could bring billions of dollars to the area’s economy.

Representatives from the mining industry also say it would have little environmental impact.

The conservation groups disagree.

“The problem with this area is that there are more unknowns than knowns — especially north of the canyon, there is a huge area where the science has not been done to determine how groundwater is moving,” said Alicyn Gitlin, of the Sierra Club.

She cited the drinking water for the Grand Canyon, which is supplied by a spring on the northern side of the canyon.

When snow melts on the North Rim most years, the water quality in the springs gets cloudy, raising an evident connection between events on the surface and water quality.

Projections on how much the ore could be worth into the future appear volatile, and determining who benefits from the industry is problematic, economic development consultant Richard Merritt wrote to the Interior Department on behalf of the Grand Canyon Trust.

“… inaccuracies in modeling the economic impact of the withdrawal … cause us to seriously question the veracity of the final conclusions …” Merritt wrote.

Federal agencies also didn’t adequately weigh the risks of lasting aquifer contamination related to uranium mining, the four conservation groups wrote.

“(The analysis) avoids discussion of the monumental tasks and hundreds of millions or billions of dollars required to clean up deep aquifer contamination, assuming it is even possible. Commenting organizations raised this issue in scoping. Neither the federal government nor industry can guarantee that uranium mining would not deplete or contaminate aquifers,” they stated.

In an April letter, the Coconino County Board of Supervisors asked that a lot of federal land in Coconino County be put off-limits to uranium mining. They raised concerns about the impacts to tourism and questions about cleanup in case of an ore truck overturning.

The county cited “hot spots” of radioactivity at former mines.

The board contended that uranium jobs were possibly counted multiple times, but that tourism revenues might be undercounted, and raised complaints that monitoring for radioactive materials along haul routes into Fredonia, Flagstaff, Page and Cameron wouldn’t be adequate.

“There is entirely too much risk, too many unknowns and too many identified impacts to justify threatening one of the most important U.S. landmarks and one of the most world-renowned national parks to justify the relatively small economic benefit associated with mining of uranium in the Grand Canyon region,” the supervisors stated.