The Mohave County Board of Supervisors has unanimously voted in support of expanded mining on lands adjacent to the Grand Canyon. They say a federal ban on new uranium claims has hurt the area’s economic prospects. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports.
The board’s vote amends Mohave County’s general plan to designate more than a million acres for mining. New uranium claims near the Grand Canyon have been banned since 2012, but the board says its move forces federal officials to include the county in future decisions about land use.
Supervisor Buster Johnson says expanded uranium mining could have billions of dollars of economic impact to the region and jump start the industry.
"We have the richest deposits of uranium in the U.S. … If we are able to mine our uranium then New Mexico and other places … it makes it so they can mine their uranium," he says.
Johnson acknowledges that current market prices are too low for new uranium mines in the area to be profitable.
Conservation groups, however, question its economic potential and fear possible groundwater contamination and other environmental impacts. Many Southwestern tribes also oppose the expansion of uranium mining. Havasupai Chairwoman Eva Kissoon says it would pollute the tribe’s water, drastically affect its livelihood, and diminish local flora and fauna.