The White Mesa uranium mill near Blanding, Utah. Photo: U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Uranium mining company pushed Trump administration to reduce Bears Ears

A uranium mining company based in Canada stands to benefit from the gutting of the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah.

Energy Fuels Resources prepared maps of the areas it wanted removed from Bears Ears and distributed them when Secretary Ryan Zinke of the Department of the Interior visited the area last May, The New York Times reported. The firm's vice president and lobbying team -- which included a former member of Congress who once disparaged Native activism -- later met with Zinke's top staff to discuss the monument, The Washington Post reported.

Zinke has denied that mining interests played a role in his recommendation to reduce the size of the monument. But Energy Fuels happens to own a third of the uranium claims within the original Bears Ears designation, The Times reported.

The firm already operates the White Mesa Mill, which the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe has opposed, and the Daneros Mine on the outskirts of Bears Ears. Overall, there are more than 300 uranium claims within the original monument boundaries, The Times reported.

“Come February, anyone can place a mining claim on the land,” Greg Zimmerman of the Center for Western Priorities, a conservation group that has investigated Zinke's ties to industry and political interests, told The Times.

Stopping uranium development was one of the reasons why the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, the Navajo Nation and other tribes supported the monument. The Navajo Reservation is littered with more than 500 abandoned mines and many tribal citizens have suffered health problems from working in the mines and living near the toxic sites.

"We felt the full brunt of uranium contamination and lost a whole generation of men who were mining or milling uranium,” Amber Kanazbah Crotty, an elected delegate to the Navajo Nation Council, told The Post.

Energy Fuels is telling a different story, calling uranium mining safe and beneficial to national interests. President and CEO Mark Chalmers described The New York Times report as a "hit piece."

Read More on the Story:
Uranium Miners Pushed Hard for a Comeback. They Got Their Wish. (The New York Times January 13, 2018)

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