PRESCOTT, Ariz. (CN) – A mining company’s plans to reopen a long-dormant uranium mine near the Grand Canyon without an updated environmental review could damage the water, wildlife and “iconic landscapes” of canyon country, environmental groups say in Federal Court.
The Center for Biological Diversity, Grand Canyon Trust, and Sierra Club say Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and the Bureau of Land Management truckled to the mining industry and failed to enforce environmental laws.
“The Bureau of Land Management’s refusal to redo outdated environmental reviews is as illegal as it is unethical,” Center for Biological Diversity spokesman Taylor McKinnon in a statement after the lawsuit was filed.
“It should be eager to protect the Grand Canyon and its endangered species; instead, it has chosen to shirk environmental review on behalf of the uranium industry.”
In 1988 the BLM approved uranium exploration at the 207-acre Arizona 1 Mine, just south of the Arizona-Utah border and about 10 miles north of the National Park, but the mine has been dormant since the early 1990s, according to the complaint.
The groups say that the mine’s Plan of Operations has expired, but BLM “has indicated that it will not require” (nonparty) Denison Mines Corp. to complete a new environmental impact assessment before starting operations.
“Significant new information since BLM’s 1988 environmental assessment bears on the manner and degree to which uranium mining and exploration operations at the Arizona 1 Mine could … affect fragile desert resources and the Grand Canyon,” the complaint states. “This includes new information about potential impacts to hydrology, water, and threatened and endangered species, and impacts from and alternatives to the transportation of uranium ore.”
The mine is in the same area that Salazar placed off limits to new mining in July, the environmentalists say.
The groups say that BLM’s refusal to require a new plan of operations violates the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, the General Mining Law of 1872, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the Endangered Species Act.
They want mining enjoined until a new plan of operations is written up that complies with the laws.
The environmentalists are represented by Amy Atwood with the Center for Biological Diversity of Portland, Ore., Neil Levine with the Grand Canyon Trust of Denver, and Roger Flynn with the Western Mining Action Project of Lyons, Colo.