A Canadian company is one permit away from reactivating an Arizona uranium mine near the Grand Canyon where conservationists have been pushing for protection from new mining operations, a state official says.
Thousands of mining claims dot a 1 million-acre area around the canyon, but Arizona Department of Environmental Quality spokesman Mark Shaffer says only Denison Mines Corp. has a pending air permit with the agency for a site about 20 miles from the canyon's northern border.
Most of the claims for uranium are staked in an Arizona strip, a sparsely populated area immediately north of the Grand Canyon National Park known for its high-grade uranium ore. The silvery white metal is used in nuclear energy and weapons and for medicine.
But nearby residents and environmentalists, who are pushing to ban new mining in the area, are worried about possible groundwater contamination, destruction of wildlife habitat and the transport of radioactive material. Some miners and their families have blamed exposure to uranium for deaths and health effects, including cancer and kidney disease.
While the mining companies insist that modern techniques are safer for the environment, there's a lot of skepticism based on the history. I'm of the opinion that no new mining should even be considered until the old mines have been cleaned up.