Uranium mine by the Grand Canyon to reopen despite Obama’s ban

Canadian mining company Energy Fuels Resources (TSX: EFR) is gearing up to reopen its uranium mine near the Grand Canyon national park in Arizona, after getting the go ahead from the federal government, The Guardian reports.

The one million acres area around the park is under a 20-year ban on new uranium mining claims, which was passed by the Obama administration last year. The ruling, however, doesn’t affect Energy Fuels’ mine, as the company obtained the rights for its Canyon Mine about two decades ago.

Several environment groups, including the Grand Canyon Trust, the Sierra Club, the Centre for Biological Diversity as well as the Havasupai tribe, are planning to request a revision of the mine permit, which they deemed outdated, as it was granted based on a 1986 study by the US Forest Service.

But Curtis Moore, a spokesman for Energy Resources, told the Guardian the Forest Service has already looked at that study, concluding that it is still adequate.

In an e-mail communication, Moore told MINING.com that talking about a “mining ban” is incorrect, as the Obama administration only “withdrew” these lands from mineral location, acknowledging that there are mines with pre-existing rights that could be allowed to proceed.

In April last year, another Canadian mining company, Quaterra Alaska, together with county supervisors in northern Arizona filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government, aiming to reverse the prohibiting rule.

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 last year’s 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.