Friday, August 27, 2010

How do you count uranium mines?

Roger Clark of the Grand Canyon Trust told the Arizona Republic newspaper that there will be 100 uranium mines around the Grand Canyon, turning it into a industrial zone. Dr. Madan Singh, Director of the Arizona Dept. of Mines & Mineral Resources, wrote a letter to the editor that countered "During the period 1980 to 1991, there were seven uranium mines that operated in the area. There is no evidence of damage to the air, water, wildlife or human health."

[top right, photo of the Piegon Mine in operation, Nov. 1989. Bottom right, after reclamation, Oct. 1993. Photo credit, Pam Hill. Taken from Karen Wenrich's testimony - see below]

Roger Clark posted a comment to Madan's letter explaining how he calculated the 100 mines:
"On July 21, 2009, Arizona State Director of the Department of Mines Mandan Singh testified before Congress that "...there will be approximately six(6) mines in operation at any one time and another six (6) being reclaimed over roughly a 20 year period." http://resourcescommittee.h...
Six mines per year for 20 years equals more than 100 uranium mines of 20 acres in size or larger within watersheds that drain directly into the Grand Canyon. I stand by my statement in the Republic's story.
Roger Clark
Grand Canyon Trust"

So, it seems pretty clear that Mr. Clark counts each year a mine operates as a separate mine. So, multiplying 6 mines times 20 years equals 120 "mine years." That's a unique interpretation. Or perhaps he's arguing that 6 mines will be added each year and all will continue on during the full 20 years.

The breccia pipe uranium mines are small (the pipes are typically 300 ft or less across) and will operate for 3-5 years before being reclaimed. If we assume 6 mines operating at any given time, there could be a cumulative total of 25-40 individual mines over a 20 year period, each in operation only a few years. Each mine would then go through a reclamation period.

The 20 acres Mr. Clark refers to must be the total size of the mine site, including buildings and yard, not just the mined breccia pipes themselves.

LEGISLATIVE HEARING ON H.R. 644 – The Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands of the Committee on Natural Resources – July 21, 2009, Uranium Mining in Arizona Breccia Pipes – Environmental, Economic, and Human Impact, Dr. Karen J. Wenrich, Research Geologist,

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