August 2020

Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Canadian Denison Uranium Mining at Grand Canyon

Canadian-based Denison Mines is mining uranium at the north rim of the Grand Canyon, continuing its disregard for Native Americans

By Brenda Norrell
Photo: Native American children at Red Butte, at the Havasupai Gathering to Halt Uranium Mining in the Grand Canyon in July. Photo Brenda Norrell.

Denison Mines is now mining uranium at the north rim of the Grand Canyon, threatening the water supply and health of the region.

President Obama's new focus on nuclear energy, with funding for nuclear power plants, is creating a new demand for uranium. Obama's new nuclear focus comes as a slap in the face to Native people who supported him and are now fighting new uranium mining on their lands.

Exploitative corporations targeting Native people, including Denison Mines, are continuing their disregard for the health and wellbeing of Native people and future generations. In the Southwest, Native people have long been the victims of uranium mining and were the victims of Cold War uranium mining. Still today, the Navajo Nation is strewn with radioactive uranium mill tailings.

Klee Benally, Navajo at Indigenous Action Media, said the new onslaught of uranium mining in the Grand Canyon comes in defiance of legal challenges and a US moratorium. Havasupai hosted a gathering in July to halt Denison's uranium mining at their sacred Red Butte at the south rim, pointing out the risk to the drinking water of the people of the Southwest and desecration of sacred lands.

However, Denison started uranium mining at the north rim of the Grand Canyon in December and plans to extract 335 tons of uranium per day out of the Arizona 1 Mine. Denison, based in Toronto, Canada, has already targeted Indigenous Peoples with uranium mining and ore processing in Utah and Saskatchewan. Further, Denison has uranium exploration underway in Mongolia and Zambia, targeting more of the worlds Indigenous Peoples with poisoned land and waterways.

Denison is just one of the Canadian companies targeting Native lands in the US. Navajos and Lakotas are in court fighting new uranium mining in the Southwest and Plains.

From the Grand Canyon, Denison is transporting hazardous ore by truck more than 300 miles through towns and communities to the company's White Mesa mill located near Blanding, Utah. The mining, transport and processing will put at risk Native Americans -- Paiute, Havasupai, Hualapai, Navajo and Ute -- along with tourists, other residents and those living along the Colorado River.

Benally said, "After being pressured by environmental groups, U.S. Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar initially called for a two-year moratorium on new mining claims in a buffer zone of 1 million acres around Grand Canyon National Park, but the moratorium doesn't include existing claims such as Denison's. The moratorium also doesn't address mining claims outside of the buffer zone.

"The Grand Canyon is ancestral homeland to the Havasupai and Hualapai Nations. Although both Indigenous Nations have banned uranium mining on their reservations the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management may permit thousands of mining claims on surrounding lands, he said.

Due to recent increases in the price of uranium and the push for nuclear power nearly 8,000 new mining claims now threaten Northern Arizona. Uranium mined from the Southwestern U.S. is predominately purchased by countries such as France and Korea for nuclear energy, he said.

"Under an anachronistic 1872 mining law, created when pick axes and shovels were used, mining companies freely file claims on public lands. The law permits mining regardless of cultural impacts," Benally said.

"Currently there are 104 nuclear reactors in the United States which supply 20% of the U.S.'s electricity. In January the Obama administration approved a $54 billion dollar taxpayer loan in a guarantee program for new nuclear reactor construction, three times what Bush previously promised in 2005."

Read more of Benally's article at:

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