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Will Trump allow irreparable damage to the Grand Canyon, and expand uneconomic uranium mining?

Will Trump Dump on Grand Canyon? Experts Say Risk of Uranium Mining Not Worth Reward
MIRIAM WASSER Phoenix New Times JANUARY 11, 2018  “……… 
In 2012, President Barack Obama’s administration put a 20-year freeze (called a mineral withdrawal) on all new mining claims in 1 million acres around the Grand Canyon. A handful of mines with valid existing rights, like Canyon Mine, were grandfathered in and permitted to move ahead with operations.

The reason for the withdrawal was simple: Scientists didn’t know enough about the complex hydrology of the area to say whether mining could cause irreparable damage. And with the entire Grand Canyon ecosystem and tourism industry at stake — not to mention the Havasupai who live in the park and the millions of people who live downstream from the Colorado River — there was overwhelming public support for the decision.

Fast-forward to the present day, however, and there are signs that the moratorium may not survive Donald Trump’s presidency.

His administration has spent the last year systematically trying to undermine his predecessor’s environmental policies, an agenda that has included reducing regulations and opening up vast areas of public land for mining, drilling, and fracking.

In the case of uranium, “they’re just doing it because they can,” says Chris Mehl of Headwaters Economics, an independent nonprofit research group that studies western land management. “They’re offering an opportunity for a product that is at or near historic low prices”….

As any economist will tell you, sometimes it’s worth taking a big risk in order to get a big reward. But when it comes to reversing the 2012 withdrawal, the potential benefits seem small and the risks seem huge.

Much has been written about the health and environmental hazards posed by uranium mining near the Grand Canyon; what’s missing is the economic side of the story.

For years, Phoenix New Times has heard that uranium mining in the area is not only environmentally irresponsible, but makes no economic sense. These critics include scientists, conservationists, local politicians, and even leaders in the nuclear power industry. They say that while intuitively, we might think that more mining would be good for the local economy, it turns out this isn’t the case.

Given that the whole point of “revising” the withdrawal is to bolster domestic energy production to create jobs, secure energy independence, and help the economy, New Times decided to investigate the economics of uranium mining in the area.

To do this, we spoke with more than a dozen experts in fields like hard-rock mining, mineral economics, hydrology, environmental law, and nuclear power. We analyzed global uranium market trends and data, learned about unconventional mining techniques, and spoke with local politicians who are familiar with the northern Arizona economy.

We also consulted reports from various federal agencies, think tanks, trade groups, the Government Accountability Office, the World Nuclear Association, and the International Atomic Energy Association’s biennial report about the state of the global uranium market, The Uranium Red Book.

Tellingly, no expert or document made the argument that acquiring uranium from within the 2012 withdrawal is a matter of national security. No one said we needed it to keep the lights on now or in the foreseeable future. The world is flush with uranium that’s cheaper to mine and the U.S. Department of Energy has huge stockpiles of enriched and raw uranium that could be used in a pinch, we were told, again and again.

And finally, no one said that it would do much for the local economy. Some suggested that at best, it could create temporary jobs, though most felt that because of the stop-and-go nature of uranium mining, and the fears mining stokes about a radioactive accident, it would be more likely to cause harm than good.

“When people want to mine [uranium] in the U.S., I think, ‘Really?’ It’s generally not worth it,” says James Conca, a senior scientist at the energy consulting firm UFA Ventures Inc…….


January 12, 2018 - Posted by | politics, Uranium, USA

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