Like many Americans on summer road trips through the Southwest, Sierra Club Executive Director, Michael Brune, and his family recently visited the Grand Canyon. While they no doubt enjoyed the majesty of the Canyon and its surroundings, Brune also had an ulterior motive.
Located just six miles south of Grand Canyon National Park is the site of Canyon Mine, a proposed uranium mine that could negatively impact the area’s cultural values, wildlife, and waters.
The Sierra Club has stated that, “Originally approved in 1986, the Canyon Mine has long been the subject of protests by the Havasupai Tribe and others objecting to potential uranium mining impacts on regional groundwater, springs, creeks, and cultural values associated with Red Butte, a Traditional Cultural Property.”
During his recent visit, Brune met with Havasupai Tribal leaders. He tells TakePart: “Sierra Club leaders have been working to stop uranium mining in the area for decades. And working to protect the lands from uranium mining by advocating for the mineral withdrawal issued by then Secretary of Interior Salazar, as well as permanently protecting the area through a Grand Canyon.”
The Obama administration has taken steps to protect one million acres around Grand Canyon from new uranium mining, but Canyon Mine has been permitted to move forward as an existing claim even though the last environmental review of the project is over two decades old.
“Mining has a history of taking precedence over other important issues due in part to the outdated Mining Law of 1872 and the significant political influence of large multinational mining corporations,” says Brune.
“The reviews for Canyon Mine are more than 27 years old, older than a number of the volunteers working on this issue,” he adds. “The mine’s permit was issued with no consideration of significant new information, including the designation of the Red Butte Traditional Cultural Property and the reintroduction of the endangered California condor.”
“Scientific studies published since 1986 demonstrate more strongly the connection between the water in this area and the seeps, springs, and creeks in Grand Canyon. If this mine pollutes the groundwater, it pollutes Grand Canyon,” says Brune.
The Brune family visit to the Grand Canyon was one stop among many that will launch the Sierra Club’s new Our Wild America campaign. He explains that, “The Sierra Club is striving to permanently protect amazing areas still at risk, defend special places from the development of dirty fuels, save our forests, and ensure that people of all backgrounds, living in all parts of the country have accessible opportunities to experience nature.”
“Grand Canyon National Monument, which later became Grand Canyon National Park, is clearly an iconic piece of America,” says Brune. “However, the area around the park, much of which contains Native American spiritual sites and amazing old-growth forests, is still at risk from uranium mining.”