Faced with dropping uranium prices, US mining companies close to the Grand Canyon have begun storing their output as they wait for prices to recover, which has environmentalists up in arms over potential radioactive contamination.
But Energy Fuels Resources Inc. (TSX:EFR), one of the miners stockpiling uranium ore in Northern Arizona, said last week there is not risk of affecting the area with radioactive dust being swept across the landscape.
In a statement, the company said Arizona only grants licenses to companies that agree to monitor and control that dust, adding the potential consequences of such situation would be minimal as there are no homes are nearby, and the dust isn’t highly radioactive.
However Roger Clark of the Grand Canyon Trust, told Fronteras Desk that despite the regulations, the U.S. Geological Survey has found uranium levels that exceeded EPA standards in nearby springs and wells.
“The cumulative effects of uranium ore on [nearby waterways] were not anticipated by the original federal environmental review, which really needs to be redone,” he was quoted as saying.
Controversy around Energy Fuels’ project sparked in April last year, after the company announced it was going ahead with its Canyon Mine despite a 20-year ban on new uranium mining claims, passed by the Obama administration in 2012, which applies to the a 1 million-acre area around the park.
The company has clarified the ruling doesn’t affect its plans, as it obtained the rights for it almost two decades ago.
What does affect the company’s plans is the current price of uranium, which has dropped about 25% so far this year.
Uranium resources in the so-called Arizona Strip represent about 40% of the US reserves. The yellow element was mined extensively there after World War II for use in the government’s nuclear weapons program.
According to 2012 figures, uranium mining in the belt could create more than 1,000 jobs over a 40-year period, bringing $2 billion revenues in federal and state corporate income taxes, $168 million in state severance taxes and $9.5 million in mining claims payment and fees to local governments.
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