Uranium Mine Gears Up Near Arizona Trail and Grand Canyon

The Pinyon Plain Mine (formerly Canyon Mine) appears to be gearing up for uranium mining operations fewer than 10 miles from the south rim of the Grand Canyon, and less than four miles from the Arizona National Scenic Trail. Hundreds more uranium mines could eventually be developed on public lands near Grand Canyon National Park if the Senate fails to pass Senate Bill 387, the Grand Canyon Protection Act.

Operators of the controversial uranium mine recently posted a job ad on Craigslist to recruit new miners, after its owner announced a deal that could ramp up operations at the mine as soon as 2023. Increased activity has been observed inside the mine fence.

The Senate has only a few weeks left to pass the Grand Canyon Protection Act, which would permanently ban new uranium mines on just over 1 million acres of federal public lands near the Grand Canyon. The bill has already passed the house twice.

As longtime residents of the Grand Canyon, the Havasupai Tribe, its leaders, and elders have fought against uranium mining for decades.

“It is time to permanently ban uranium mining — not only to preserve the Havasupai Tribe’s cultural identity and our existence as the Havasupai People, but to protect the Grand Canyon for generations to come,” said Chairman Thomas Siyuja, Sr. “With recent activity observed inside the mine fence, it is clear that the mining company is making plans to begin its operations.”

According to Chairman Siyuja, Sr., “The Havasupai Tribe knows the irreparable damage that uranium mining can do. For generations, we have been at the forefront, working to permanently protect our ancient homelands from the negative impacts of uranium mining, which has disproportionately harmed and sickened indigenous people across Northern Arizona. The Senate must pass the Grand Canyon Protection Act and once and for all permanently ban any new uranium mines on our ancestral lands.”

There are nearly 600 active mining claims staked near Grand Canyon National Park. If the Senate fails to act, those claims could be developed into mines if the existing temporary mining ban is lifted or expires.

Uranium mining has a long history of contaminating land and water and sickening people in the region, including on the nearby Navajo Nation, where hundreds of abandoned uranium mines still await cleanup. At Pinyon Plain Mine alone, more than 49 millions gallons of groundwater contaminated with high levels of uranium and arsenic have been pumped out of the mine shaft.

“The fact that Pinyon Plain Mine is just a few miles away from the Arizona National Scenic Trail is alarming,” said Matthew Nelson, executive director of the Arizona Trail Association. “In the interest of public safety, and for the love of clean air and water and soil for people and wildlife, we urge decision makers to reconsider the permitting for this mine and ban new mines here in the future. The risks far outweigh the rewards.”

Pinyon Plain Mine, also known as Canyon Mine, is located in a meadow on the Kaibab National Forest, near Red Butte, a federally recognized traditional cultural property, south of Grand Canyon National Park. The area is the aboriginal homeland of the Havasupai Tribe and the mine threatens the Tribe’s only source of drinking water. The Havasupai Tribe has led opposition to the mine since it was first approved in the 1980s. While passage of the Grand Canyon Protection Act would stop new mines from being developed, it would not shut down existing mines like Pinyon Plain Mine. The Havasupai Tribe and its many supporters remain committed to seeing the mine closed and cleaned up.