Monday, April 01, 2013

Mining foes say northern Arizona ban doesn't go far enough

Groups opposed to uranium mining in northern Arizona have filed suit over plans by Energy Fuels to develop the Canyon mine which they say is fully permitted [right, location map from Energy Fuels]. The Arizona [Phoenix] Republic ran a front page story today on a suit filed a couple of weeks ago, presenting the mine opponents arguments that  information in reports from the USGS and others subsequent to the Forest Service approval in 1986 invalidates the company's rights to proceed.

However, that information appears to be included in the draft EIS that Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar  had when he publicly supported continuation of currently approved projects last year when he withdrew 1 million acres of federal lands from mining and geologic exploration. The Interior Dept. press release noted at the time the Secretary's commitment to allowing approved projects to continue:
"Secretary Salazar’s decision will provide adequate time for monitoring to inform future land use decisions in this treasured area, while allowing currently approved mining operations to continue as well as new operations on valid existing mining claims.

The withdrawal does not prohibit previously approved uranium mining, new projects that could be approved on claims and sites with valid existing rights. The withdrawal would allow other natural resource development in the area, including mineral leasing, geothermal leasing and mineral materials sales, to the extent consistent with the applicable land use plans

During the withdrawal period, the BLM projects that up to 11 uranium mines, including four that are currently approved, could still be developed based on valid pre-existing rights – meaning the jobs supported by mining in the area would increase or remain flat as compared to the current level, according to the BLM’s analysis.
Energy Fuels describes the Canyon mine as "a fully-permitted uranium mine located in northern Arizona approximately 6 miles southeast of Tusayan, Arizona. The mine site for this high-grade “breccia pipe” deposit has less than 20 acres of total surface disturbance and is situated on land managed by the U.S. Forest Service. The mine was approved by the Forest Service and partially developed in the late 1980’s. There is significant existing infrastructure at the site, including a head-frame, hoist and a partially sunk shaft. There are approximately 1,629,000 lbs. of U3O8 at Canyon, contained in 82,800 tons of inferred resource at an average grade of 0.98% U3O8.
Refurbishment of surface facilities development has begun at the Canyon Mine, and the Company expects to sink the remainder of the shaft and complete all surface and underground facilities by 2014.  Production is expected in 2015."

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