U.S. Senate Bill Would Permanently Ban New Uranium Mining Near Grand Canyon

Feb 25, 2021

Arizona’s U.S. Senators have introduced a bill that would ban all new uranium mining near Grand Canyon National Park. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports, it’s the latest of several attempts to protect the area’s water and environment.

An aerial view of the Pinyon Plain Mine, formerly called the Canyon Mine, near the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. The uranium mine is owned by Energy Fuels Resources and is currently on standby status.
Credit Ryan Heinsius / KNAU

The Grand Canyon Protection Act would make permanent a 20-year moratorium on uranium claims over more than a million acres adjacent to the park. Conservation groups say uranium mining threatens the Grand Canyon’s environment and springs, and the Havasupai Tribe worries it could pollute their sole source of water.

"To mine uranium around the Grand Canyon’s a bad idea. It is a treasure for our state, but also for our country and our planet. It’s also important to our economy," says Arizona Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly, a cosponsor of the bill.

Kelly says Grand Canyon tourism and recreation generates $1.2 billion a year in northern Arizona. He and Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema sponsored the legislation.

Arizona Democratic congressmen Raul Grijalva and Tom O’Halleran introduced a companion bill in the U.S. House of Representatives last week.

The uranium industry argues modern mining is safe and limiting domestic production would make the U.S. more reliant on foreign sources as the county moves away from fossil fuels for energy generation.