ADEQ approves uranium mining permit for Pinyon Plain Mine

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Environmentalists are upset that the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) approved an aquifer protection permit April 28 for a uranium mine near Grand Canyon National Park.

The mine, formerly Canyon Mine, now called Pinyon Plain Mine, is located about 10 miles south of Grand Canyon’s South Rim in Kaibab National Forest, and is owned by Energy Fuels Inc.

Environmentalists are concerned that water from this mine will contaminate the aquifer that the Havasupai use for their water. Environmentalists are considering appealing the decision. The Havasupai Tribe and the public have 30 days to appeal the decision.

If they appeal, the first round would be an administrative appeal to a state water board and then the appeal would go to the state courts.

Taylor McKinnon, a spokesman for the Center for Biological Diversity, said neither the uranium industry nor the regulators can ensure that mining won’t permanently damage the Grand Canyon’s aquifers and springs.

“This permit strenuously ignores science showing the potential for deep aquifer pollution, and in a region still plagued by seven decades of uranium industry pollution, risking more, as this permit does, is dangerous,” he said.

McKinnon said it’s ridiculous to approve the permit for this mine instead of protecting a natural treasure.

“Why can’t we make better decisions?” he asked.

McKinnon said he’s dismayed by the permit approval decision because it risks irrevocable harm to the aquifer feeding Grand Canyon springs. He said this ignores the science showing that there is activity between the shallow and deep aquifers.

“If that happens it’s irreversible. These are not risks that should be taken,” he said.