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“Zombie” uranium mines can keep operating near Grand Canyon

conservation groups that had challenged the decision to reopen Arizona
1 said the court’s ruling sets a precedent that will let “zombie
mines” operate under old regulations and ignore years of new
environmental science.

“They are basically zombie mines that will live perpetually without
ever being subject to new environmental reviews,”

Appeals court upholds reopening of uranium mine near Grand Canyon By
Mary Shinn, Cronkite News Service February 5, 2013
WASHINGTON – A federal appeals court Monday upheld the government’s
decision to let a uranium mine near Grand Canyon National Park
continue to operate under environmental standards now decades old.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled
that the Bureau of Land Management did not violate environmental
protection law by letting the Arizona 1 mine reopen in 2009 after a
17-year break in production……
conservation groups that had challenged the decision to reopen Arizona
1 said the court’s ruling sets a precedent that will let “zombie
mines” operate under old regulations and ignore years of new
environmental science.

“They are basically zombie mines that will live perpetually without
ever being subject to new environmental reviews,” said Taylor
McKinnon, wildlands campaigns director with the Center for Biological
Diversity.

In 2011, the Department of the Interior banned new uranium mining
permits for 20 years in 1 million acres near the Grand Canyon. But
older mines, like Arizona 1, were grandfathered in.

That mine had received permits and began mining at the Mohave County
site in the 1980s. The mine was shuttered in 1992 when the price of
uranium dropped, but Denison Mines Corp. maintained the mine “on
standby” in subsequent years to make sure it complied with the
original environmental permit.

In 2007, the mine renewed air and water permits and updated its bond
for reclamation work, and the Bureau of Land Management gave it the
go-ahead to resume mining operations.

Conservation groups and Native American tribes sued the agency to stop
operations shortly after the mine reopened in 2009, claiming the mine
should be subject to new environmental standards to avoid uranium
contamination. But a lower court rejected that claim, saying the
previous permit was still in effect, and the appeals court Monday
agreed with the lower court……
The Center for Biological Diversity’s McKinnon said the conservation
groups and tribes involved in the lawsuit had not decided whether to
appeal Monday’s decision. But another plaintiff noted that the mine
has already been active for four years while legal challenges dragged
on.

“In essence, the damage has already been done,” said Roger Clark,
director for the Grand Canyon Trust, one of the groups that sued to
block the mine.

McKinnon’s center is also considering a lawsuit to block the
re-opening of another mine on Forest Service land, scheduled to
produce ore by 2015. He said that mine, the Kanab North Mine,
exemplifies the damage the conservation groups fear, pointing to a
U.S. Geological Survey report of high levels of uranium and arsenic in
the soil hundreds of feet from the mine site and in the ponds left
behind.

Preventing uranium mining completely is the goal for conservationists
in the suit, because a site can never be completely reclaimed and
companies often leave taxpayers to finish the job, said Sandy Bahr of
the Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club.
http://azcapitoltimes.com/news/2013/02/05/appeals-court-upholds-reopening-of-uranium-mine-near-grand-canyon/#ixzz2KLmeV5LA

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February 8, 2013 - Posted by | Legal, Uranium, USA

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