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Poll shows broad support for permanent Grand Canyon uranium mining ban

Pinyon Plain Mine Heinsius
Ryan Heinsius/KNAU
The Pinyon Plain Mine is located on the Kaibab National Forest near the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and is owned by Energy Fuels Resources.

A new poll shows strong support for establishing a permanent ban on uranium mining on a million acres surrounding Grand Canyon National Park. A coalition of tribes, environmental groups and elected officials for years have pushed for the ban to protect the area’s water and Indigenous lands.

The survey conducted by the Washington DC-based firm GQR shows broad bipartisan support for the protections. Nearly 70% of the likely Arizona voters polled in June wanted to see a permanent ban on new uranium mining, with an overwhelming majority of Democrats in favor as well as nearly half of Republicans.

It comes as the U.S. Senate considers the Grand Canyon Protection Act, which would put a permanent ban in place. It’s already been passed by the U.S. House, where the bill was sponsored by Arizona Democratic Congressman Raul Grijalva.

"Even in a time where everything feels like a partisan issue, when everything feels so divisive, even in these times in the Grands Canyon, uranium mining is not one of these issues," Grijalva says.

The Obama administration put a 20-year halt on new uranium mining claims on more than a million acres near the Grand Canyon in 2012. Grijalva and others say mining contaminates water resources and further endangers the Colorado River. The Havasupai Tribe has fought uranium mining for decades and says it threatens sacred sites and their sole source of drinking water.

The mining industry, however, says modern uranium extraction methods are safe and don’t pose a danger to the environment.

Ryan joined KNAU's newsroom in 2013. He covers a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a frequent contributor to NPR.