Editorial: No uranium mining near Grand Canyon

"Uranium mines don't belong next door to one of the seven wonders of the natural world.

Yet a British mining company plans to drill exploratory holes on federal land within three miles of the Grand Canyon.

The U.S. Forest Service gave Vane Minerals Group the green light in December to drill at seven sites in the Kaibab National Forest.

Officials don't have a lot of leeway under the 1872 mining law, which still applies to gold, uranium and other hard-rock minerals. It gives mining precedence over other uses on federal land. Plus, there are no royalties for taking hard-rock minerals.

And we've heard just the first few clicks of the Geiger counter.

With skyrocketing uranium prices, there's a rush of mining claims in Kaibab. More than 2,000 have been filed in the Tusayan Ranger District, which borders the South Rim of the Canyon.

Once the exploratory drilling starts, full-scale mining is right behind. So is the potential for environmental damage and contamination. The area around the Grand Canyon is a complex water system, laced with seeps, springs and washes. At the base is the mighty Colorado River, supplying water to millions, including Valley residents.

The track record of uranium mining in northern Arizona isn't pretty, with elevated radiation levels in water and debris near old mines. Many blame those factors for high cancer rates in the area, especially on the Navajo Reservation. Three years ago, the tribe banned uranium mining."

Get the Story:
Editorial: We know the drill (The Arizona Republic 3/30)

Another Story:
Many say wonder of Grand Canyon should take priority (Cronkite News Service 3/30)

Relevant Links:
Kaibab National Forest - http://www.fs.fed.us/r3/kai
Grand Canyon - http://www.nps.gov/grca

Related Stories:
Editorial: No uranium mining near Grand Canyon (2/21)
Uranium exploration allowed near Grand Canyon (02/07)