The New York Times has editorialized for the most sweeping option in shutting down uranium exploration in northern Arizona, repeating the main points of mining opponents. [right, uranium mining in northern Arizona. Credit VANE Minerals]
They raise concerns the Colorado River is uranium-free but is at risk of being contaminated by mining activity, potentially poisoning the drinking water of 27 million people. However, work by the U.S. Geological Survey documented that 40-80 tons of uranium are eroded naturally into the Colorado River every year. The AZGS found that even the worst-case accident would add additional amounts to the river that are too small to distinguish from the large amounts of naturally-occurring uranium.
There are valid issues to resolve about mining in this region but overstated fears distract us from the real challenges and diminish the debate.