Arizona Public Radio | Your Source for NPR News
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Uranium production begins at Pinyon Plain Mine near Grand Canyon

The head frame of the Pinyon Plain Mine, located less than 10 miles from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon within the Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni Grand Canyon National Monument, on Sept. 8, 2023. The mine's owner, Energy Fuels Resources, said in late December 2023 that it had begun producing uranium ore at the site that for decades has drawn strong opposition from tribes and environmental groups.
Ryan Heinsius/KNAU
The head frame of the Pinyon Plain Mine, located less than 10 miles from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon within the Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni Grand Canyon National Monument, on Sept. 8, 2023. The mine's owner, Energy Fuels Resources, said in late December 2023 that it had begun producing uranium ore at the site that for decades has drawn strong opposition from tribes and environmental groups.

A uranium mine less than 10 miles from the South Rim of the Grand has begun production. It comes after decades of preparation work and amid resistance from tribal and environmental groups.

In late December, Energy Fuels Resources announced it had begun producing uranium ore at its Pinyon Plain Mine located within the Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni Grand Canyon National Monument.

The company didn’t say how much uranium has so far been mined, but that it started slowly and plans to ramp up to full production by the second half of the year.

According to Energy Fuels, the main factor in starting production at the long-delayed mine is the current 16-year high for uranium prices at almost $90 a pound.

"Due to the substantial increase in uranium prices, U.S. government support for nuclear energy and nuclear fuel, and a global focus on reducing carbon-emissions, Energy Fuels is resuming large-scale uranium production ... Energy Fuels is recognized globally as a dependable U.S. uranium supplier that operates to the highest environmental, safety, and efficiency standards," said Energy Fuels President and CEO Mark Chalmers in a press statement.

The Pinyon Plain Mine, formerly known as the Canyon Mine, has faced strong opposition for decades from tribes and environmental groups that worry about potential impacts to water resources.

"The startup of Pinyon Plain Mine inside the new national monument and despite the decades of opposition from tribes and the local community over concerns for irreplaceable cultural and environmental resources represents the work we have ahead of us to reform America's antiquated, colonialism-driven mining laws," said Amber Reimondo, energy director for the Grand Canyon Trust. "If not for these outdated laws, Pinyon Plain Mine would most likely not be moving forward today."

The company says it’ll also begin uranium production at two sites in southeastern Utah along with mines in Colorado and Wyoming within a year.

Last summer, President Joe Biden declared the nearly 1-million-acre Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni Grand Canyon National Monument adjacent to Grand Canyon National Park, in part, to prevent hundreds of new uranium mining claims in the area. The Pinyon Plain Mine, located within the monument, was allowed to continue operating because of its preexisting claim.

Ryan Heinsius was named interim news director and managing editor in January 2024. He joined KNAU's newsroom as an executive producer 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 Public Media Journalists Association Award winner, and a frequent contributor to NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and national newscast.