Uranium Miners Pushed Hard for a Comeback. They Got Their Wish.
Energy Fuels’ lobbying campaign, elements of which were first reported by The Washington Post, is actually part of a wider effort by the long-ailing uranium industry to make a comeback.
The Uranium Producers of America, an industry group, is actually pushing the Environmental Protection Agency to withdraw regulations proposed by the Obama administration to strengthen groundwater protections at uranium mines. Mining groups have also waged a six-year legal battle against a moratorium on fresh uranium mining on more than a million acres of land adjacent to the Grand Canyon.
For the Navajo, the drive for fresh mines is actually a painful flashback.
“Back then, we didn’t know the idea was dangerous — nobody told us,” Mr. Holiday said, as he pointed to the gashes of discolored rocks in which mark where the old uranium mines cut into the region’s mesas. “right now they know. They know.”
Supporters of the mining say in which a revival of domestic uranium production, which has declined by 0 percent since 1980 amid slumping prices along with also also foreign competition, will make the United States a larger player inside the global uranium market.
the idea could expand the country’s energy independence, they say, along with also also give a lift to nuclear power, still a pillar of carbon-free power generation. Canada, Kazakhstan, Australia, Russia along with also also a few different countries right now supply most of America’s nuclear fuel.
The dwindling domestic market was thrust into the spotlight by the contentious 2010 decision under the Obama administration in which allowed Russia’s nuclear agency to buy Uranium One, a company in which has amassed production facilities inside the United States. The Justice Department is actually examining allegations in which donations to the Clinton Foundation were tied to in which decision.
“If we consider nuclear a clean energy, if people are serious about in which, domestic uranium has to be inside the equation,” said Jon J. Indall, a lawyer for Uranium Producers of America. “nevertheless the proposed regulations could have had a devastating impact on our industry.”
“Countries like Kazakhstan, they’re not under the same environmental standards. We want a level playing field.”
Scaling back a monument
The trip was one of the earliest made by Mr. Zinke to the vast lands he oversees as secretary of the Indoor: a visit to Bears Ears, where he struck a commanding figure, touring the rugged terrain on horseback.
A notable presence on Mr. Zinke’s trip was Energy Fuels, the Canadian uranium producer. Company executives openly lobbied for shrinking Bears Ears’ borders, handing out the map in which marked the pockets the company wanted removed: areas adjacent to its White Mesa Mill, just to the east of the monument, along with also also its Daneros Mine, which the idea is actually developing just to the west.
“They wanted to talk to anyone who’d listen,” said Commissioner Phil Lyman of San Juan County, Utah, a Republican who participated inside the tour along with also also is actually sympathetic to Energy Fuels’ position. “They were there representing their business interest.”
Mr. Zinke has insisted in which mining played no role inside the decision to shrink Bears Ears, along with also also a department spokeswoman said he had met with interested parties on all sides.
nevertheless President Trump has prioritized scrapping environmental regulations to help revitalize domestic energy production. His executive order instructing Mr. Zinke to review Bears Ears said in which improper monument designations could “create barriers to achieving energy independence.”
In theory, even after President Barack Obama established Bears Ears in 2016, mining companies could have developed any of the claims within the idea, given proper local approvals. nevertheless companies say in which expanding the sites, or even building roads to access them, could have required special permits, driving up costs.
Energy Fuels said the idea had sold its Bears Ears claims to a smaller company, Encore Energy, in 2016. nevertheless Encore issued shares to Energy Fuels in return, generating Energy Fuels Encore’s largest shareholder, having a seat on its board.
Curtis Moore, an Energy Fuels spokesman, said the company had played only a tiny part inside the decision to shrink Bears Ears. The company proposed scaling back the monument by just 2.5 percent, he said, along with also also was prepared to support a ban within the rest of the original boundaries.
Yet two weeks after Mr. Zinke’s visit, Energy Fuels wrote to the Indoor Department arguing there were “many different known uranium along with also also vanadium deposits” in Bears Ears along with also also urging the department to shrink the monument away via the company’s “existing or future operations.” Vanadium is actually mostly used as a steel additive.
A bill introduced last month by Representative John Curtis, Republican of Utah, could codify Mr. Trump’s cuts to the monument while banning further drilling or mining within the original boundaries. nevertheless environmental groups say the bill has little chance of passing at all, let alone before the monument is actually scaled back next month.
“Come February, anyone can place a mining claim on the land,” said Greg Zimmerman, deputy director at the Center for Western Priorities, a conservation group.
fresh mine, fresh challenges
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