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Anna Aurilio,
Environment America

Past Disasters Show Dangers of Uranium Mining Near the Grand Canyon

For Immediate Release

Uranium mining has left a legacy of disastrous pollution in the West, and now mining poses a risk to the Grand Canyon — one of our greatest national parks. Thousands of new mining claims threaten to destroy the canyon’s stunning landscape and pollute the Colorado River — a major source of drinking water for Nevada — according to a report released today by Environment Nevada entitled “Grand Canyon at Risk: Uranium Mining Doesn't Belong Near Our National Treasures.”

“Americans love the Grand Canyon,” said Anna Aurilio, Washington Director of Environment Nevada. “We don’t want to let toxic uranium mining trash our national treasure and pollute the water that we drink.”

The canyon already bears the scars of past mining activity, as the report shows. Hikers in Grand Canyon National Park cannot drink the water from four different radioactively contaminated streams, including one flowing down the canyon’s south rim near the abandoned Orphan Mine – located only a few steps away from a popular vista point. Mining around the canyon has left a toxic trail of dangerously radioactive soil, polluted aquifers, and saddled taxpayers with millions in cleanup costs.

“The drinking water of millions of people in Nevada and other parts of the West could be jeopardized by uranium mining,” Aurilio said. “Thousands of people living in neighboring states already suffer from major health problems from uranium mining. Contaminated air and water has led to cancer, anemia, arthritis, and birth defects.” 

Uranium mining near the Colorado River would threaten drinking water supplies for 25 million people living in Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Los Angeles. Public support for protecting the Grand Canyon is growing: 300,000 Americans, local tribal groups, 60 members of Congress, and the mayor of North Las Vegas have joined the call to protect the area around the park from toxic mining. The Southern Nevada Water Authority has expressed concern about the threats posed to the drinking water of millions of people living in Nevada.

The mining industry has staked more than one thousand mining claims within five miles of Grand Canyon National Park, threatening the canyon’s stunning landscape, fragile ecosystems, and families’ health. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has announced a plan to protect one million acres around the canyon from new mining claims for 20 years, but the mining industry’s allies in Congress have voted to open to the area to new uranium mining.

“We urge Representatives Shelley Berkeley, Joe Heck and Dean Heller to stand up for our national treasure and safeguard our drinking water by voting to protect the Grand Canyon from new mining claims,” Aurilio added. “We can’t let uranium mining turn the Grand Canyon into a toxic waste dump.”