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Trump is using a pandemic to weaken environmental law. First victim: The Grand Canyon

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SOURCE:  azcentral.com

Opinion: There’s no such thing as a ‘safe’ uranium mine. Yet a new report recommends excluding these mines from public review and comment.

Canyon Mine is a uranium mine located 6 miles southeast of Tusayan on the Kaibab National Forest near the Grand Canyon. (Photo: Mark Henle/The Republic)

by Raúl Grijalva, opinion contributor

President Trump is using the worst pandemic in a century to weaken our environmental laws without public oversight, and he isn’t sparing the Grand Canyon.

While Americans shelter at home, waiting for the administration to offer a more effective medical response than injecting bleach, an administration advisory group just released a report recommending opening more public lands to uranium extraction.

The steps recommended in a new report by the Nuclear Fuel Working Group, an industry-stacked panel the president created through an executive order in July 2019, look a lot like pre-determined conclusions.

One of the most alarming should worry every Arizonan, and frankly every American: excluding uranium mines from the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which gives Americans the chance to review and comment on major proposals that impact them.

The report, if it’s implemented, paves the way for dangerous mining of the sort that even industry cheerleaders don’t suggest in public.

Report would give polluters a free pass

This is not alarmism. The report spells it out in black and white when it recommends that federal regulators “consider categorical exclusions for uranium mineral exploration and development activities.” A categorical exclusion is offered only to individual projects determined to have no impact on the environment.

These are sometimes handed out to industry in the guise of streamlining or efficiency — which, under recent Republican administrations, have become code words for giving polluters a free pass.

The Trump administration wants to take advantage of widespread stay-at-home policies to weaken laws that protect us from unchecked pollution. A democratic government puts the people first, and cutting environmental regulations while the people aren’t able to go to a public meeting or make sure their voices are heard is not democratic.

These recommendations are another in a long line of industry giveaways being pushed under cover of pandemic without public scrutiny.

The American people should reject this report and the rigged process used to prepare it. And as a credible new analysis from the Grand Canyon Trust shows us, even if we wanted to take the report seriously, there’s no such thing as a truly “safe” uranium mine.

The Canyon Mine, a few miles from the southern entrance to Grand Canyon National Park, was approved in 1986. It’s never produced any uranium, but it’s been far from silent. Over the past few years, the mine shaft has been flooded with tens of millions of gallons of potentially radioactive water that have had to be pumped out and, in some cases, sprayed as mist into the air.

READ THE REST OF THIS OPINION HERE.

Foreign-owned mines operate royalty-free under outdated US law

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SOURCE:  revealnews.org  from The Center for Investigative Reporting

By / January 21, 2015

Let’s say you own 245 million acres.  And underneath that land are billions of dollars worth of minerals – gold, silver, copper, uranium and more.  Would you let foreign companies in to tear up your land, put your water at risk and take those minerals without paying royalties?

You already are. That’s the amount of public surface land controlled by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the federal government’s biggest landholder. And companies that mine these lands are exempt from federal royalty payments.

And it’s happening right now.  Take, for example, the Dewey Burdock uranium project in South Dakota.  It encompasses 240 acres of public surface land, plus more than 4,000 subsurface acres of uranium-rich earth.

As of two months ago, a Hong Kong-based company had secured the right to mine and profit off that uranium, used to replenish nuclear power plants around the world, particularly in China.  In November, Hong Kong’s Azarga Resources merged with Powertech to become Azarga Uranium and manage the Dewey Burdock project.

Azarga will pay no royalties to the United States government.  Thanks to the Mining Law of 1872, which still governs uranium and other “hardrock” mining to this day, any company can extract and sell minerals from public lands without paying a cent in royalties to the federal government.

A spokesman for the mine, Mark Hollenbeck, points out that the mine will be paying South Dakota a severance tax, which is a tax on extracting nonrenewable resources.

Besides the royalties issue, some community members worry this mine will put their drinking water at risk.  In-situ uranium mining by nature takes place where there is groundwater.  The process involves injecting chemicals into the aquifer where the uranium ore is.  The chemicals leach the uranium from the rock, and the uranium is then pumped to the surface.  At Dewey Burdock, opponents are concerned that the radioactive, uranium-laden groundwater won’t be contained to the mining site.

Last week, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission released testimony from geologist Hannan LaGarry.  LaGarry found serious flaws in the company’s analysis of the groundwater geology.  He concluded that that there is a risk of groundwater contamination if the mine is allowed to go forward.

The mining company opposed the release of the testimony.

In the U.S., the aquifer by law must be restored to its previous condition when mining is finished.  That means the water must be cleaned enough to put it back to its pre-mining uses.

A Hong Kong-based company has secured the right to mine and profit off the Dewey Burdock uranium project in South Dakota.

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