Opinion: Grand Canyon uranium threatens Havasupai water
"Last week, a delegation of leaders from Arizona’s Havasupai Tribe traveled to Washington D.C., to advocate for the protection of the Grand Canyon region from a potential onslaught of uranium extraction activities. These four women – tribal council members and traditional elders – voiced their concern for the safety of the land, the purity of the water and the health of the community, and called for the passage of the Grand Canyon Watershed Protection Act (H.R. 644). Introduced in 2009 by Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) this law would ban mineral exploration and the establishment of new mining claims pursuant to the 1872 Mining Law, on about one million acres of public lands surrounding Grand Canyon National Park.

Uranium deposits are found throughout the Grand Canyon region in layered formations called breccia pipes, located near precious local aquifers easily breached by extractive operations. Such operations could also cause uranium, previously undisturbed for millions of years, to move, oxidize and dissolve into nearby seeps and springs which eventually feed into the Colorado River – a significant source of water for 27 million people in seven Southwestern states, and the sole water source for the Havasupai.

A Northern Arizona uranium mining boom in the 1980s saw the contamination of several water sources including Kanab Creek, which runs along the Canyon’s northern rim, when a flash flood washed tons of high-grade uranium ore into the Creek; the creeks below the Orphan Mine, sited near the south rim of the Grand Canyon; and the Little Colorado River, where the National Park Service warns visitors against drinking or bathing due to the presence of excessive radioactive isotopes. Uranium and its decay elements are highly toxic, and are associated with lung cancer, skin cancer, bone cancer, leukemia, kidney damage and birth defects."

Get the Story:
Caitlin Sislin: Grand Canyon uranium threatens tribal water (High Country News 5/18)

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