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Uranium Mine Near Grand Canyon Deals With Excess Water

Canyon Mine
Laurel Morales
Canyon Mine is not currently operating. Energy Fuels is trying to remove the excess water from an especially wet winter.

A uranium mine six miles outside Grand Canyon National Park has filled with water from a wet winter. An environmental group and two tribes are concerned with how the company is dealing with it.

The mining company Energy Fuels is pumping the water into a mist over its containment pond to encourage evaporation. The Sierra Club is worried about the mist falling on the nearby forest and a Havasupai sacred site.

“This is unacceptable and just confirms many of our concerns about this mine. The mining industry has been saying that mining is cleaner and safer than it used to be, but now the shaft of the mine has been flooded and they had to develop a contingency plan before they’ve even started removing ore,” said Sierra Club’s Alicyn Gitlin. “We should not trust this mine or this mining company so close to one of the world’s natural wonders. They’re putting the waters of Grand Canyon at risk.”

Energy Fuels spokesman Curtis Moore said since the company was criticized for the practice, when winds pick up they’re shutting off the mist.

"They’re claiming that there’s contaminated water,” Moore said. “That’s a pretty loaded term to describe water you can almost drink.”

Tests show the pond water has levels of uranium between 0.04 and 0.09 parts per million. The EPA says uranium levels in water lower than 0.03 is safe to drink. The Sierra Club was also concerned about the water trucked across the Navajo Nation to a uranium processing facility in southern Utah. The Navajo Nation has a law that prohibits any radioactive material. Moore says the company is using public roads.

Laurel Morales was a Fronteras Desk reporter in Flagstaff from 2011 to 2020.