State denies permits for uranium mines

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality has denied the Denison Mining Corp eight key aquifer protection permits needed for the operation of two uranium mines in the vicinity of Grand Canyon.

Four of the requests were to operate the Canyon Mine near Red Butte south of Tusayan and four were for the Pinenut Mine 45 miles south of Fredonia and just north of the park's North Rim boundary. According to denial letters issued by the ADEQ last month, in their applications the company failed to provide proper documentation outlining construction and water management plans to handle the runoff from mined stockpiles and vehicle washes. The agency also said that existing liners in containment areas are more than 20 years old and no longer meet state standards.

According to the ADEQ, the company can appeal the decision on their general APP or apply for individual permits.

There is a headframe and other equipment at the Canyon Mine, which was opposed by the Havasupai tribe, but no excavation has ever been done. The Pinenut Mine operated just one year - in 1989, when it yielded about a half million pounds of uranium.

The denials are the latest setback for the uranium mining's industry on the Colorado Plateau. In early April, a federal judge issued a restraining order to halt exploration by VANE Minerals pending a ruling on a lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, the Grand Canyon Trust and the Sierra Club. The plaintiffs argue that the Forest Service was wrong to use a categorical exclusion, the least rigorous level of environmental review, to grant the mining company the authorization to do exploratory drilling. They expect that the court will require the company to do a full environmental assessment.

In March, U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona, held a public hearing in Flagstaff, where 11 of 14 witnesses, including tribal leaders and environmental groups, spoke against the uranium mining industry. Grijalva has introduced legislation to withdraw 1 million acres of public lands around Grand Canyon from uranium development.

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