Friday, July 24, 2009

Clashes at Grijalva's hearing on uranium mining

This week's Congressional hearing on uranium mining, called by committee chair Rep. Raul Grijalva of Tucson, may be indicative of the rising debate over uranium mining in northern Arizona. I get the sense that this is turning into one of the environmental flash points nationwide.

Utah Congressman Rob Bishop, the ranking Republican on the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, started the hearing off by saying Monday's decision by Interior Secretary Salazar to put 1 million acres off-limits to new mining claims, is "tyranny" by the Obama administration. Salt Lake City's Deseret News further quotes him as saying, "The secretary of the Interior unilaterally and arbitrarily made a multiyear decision for a moratorium without input, without science and obviously without understanding." [right, uranium exploration drill rig from last year. Credit, Vane Minerals]

A Nevada university professor is quoted as saying that he found high levels of uranium in a canyon creek which he claimed were the result of mining more than a decade ago. AZ Dept. of Mining and Mineral Resources director Dr. Madan Singh challenged that, saying the concentrations are from erosion of the naturally-occurring uranium-bearing deposits in the region.

Tucson-based uranium geologist Dr. Karen Wenrich, argued that it's not appropriate to compare modern mining methods with out-of-date techniques used decades ago.

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