Potential Uranium Mining at Grand Canyon

Denison Mines Corp.: Arizona I Mine, Pinenut Mine and Canyon Mine

On Sept. 1, 2009, pursuant to Arizona Administrative Code (A.A.C.) and Arizona Revised Statutes the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality issued Air Quality Permit 46700 for the Arizona I Mine and Discharge Authorizations for the 3.04 General Aquifer Protection Permits (APP) 100300 for the Pinenut Mine and APP 100333 for Canyon Mine to Denison Mines (USA) Corp. The Arizona I, Pinenut and Canyon mines are all underground uranium mines.

AZ Dept. of Environmental Quality Permits

Map of Arizona mining site

Comments from Sarah Fields of www.uraniumwatch.org : One of the approvals for the AZ mines that Denison has not submitted (as of a about a month ago) are the applications to the EPA, pursuant to 40 CFR Part 61, Subpart B: the NESHAP for radon from underground uranium mines.  Section 61.07 requires an application for a new or modified source (prior to construction and operation) and an approval by the EPA (§ 61.08), and notification of commencement of operation (§61.09).  In Utah, the Div. of Air Quality has primacy for radionuclide NESHAPS, but not not implemented a program for the uranium mines.  Both DAQ and mine operators are out of compliance. Have been in discussion with EPA and DAQ about this.  Mike Brandowski of the EPA Region 9 is the person to talk to about this for AZ mines: 415-947-4194.  It is unclear to me what kind of public process EPA envisions, though Part 61 EPA approvals are to be Title V permits.

According to the information on the MSHA website, work commenced at the Arizona 1 (Mine ID 0202443) the third quarter of 2007, both surface and underground:  5,223 hours in 2007, 36,802 hours in 2008, and 19,132 hours through 2nd quarter of 2009.  With underground work, they should have had an approval by the EPA for radon emission program and submit annual reports.

Uranium mining could resume north of Canyon
The Arizona Republic
by Shaun McKinnon
Sept. 2, 2009

Uranium mining could resume within the year at a site north of the Grand Canyon after state officials signed off on the last permit needed to restart operations.

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality issued an air-quality permit Tuesday to Denison Mines for the Arizona 1 mine, about 35 miles south of Fredonia. The permit clears the way for Denison to extract
uranium from the region for the first time in almost two decades.

Denison officials have said they could restart Arizona 1 within a year after the final permit is issued.

The prospect of new uranium mines on public lands near the national park has stirred opposition among conservation groups and Indian tribes, who say extracting the ore could contaminate groundwater and the Colorado River, which serves millions of people downstream.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in July halted new mining claims on 1.1 million acres north and south of the Canyon to further study the risks,
but the action won't stop existing mines such as Arizona 1 and others that have previously operated.

Denison also received aquifer protection permits for two other existing mines, the Pine Nut and Canyon, but both of those sites need additional permits before work can resume.

State environmental officials said the air-quality permit includes safeguards to ensure that mining operations will not foul the air or reduce visibility at the Grand Canyon. The permit regulates site operations as well as transportation, which includes hauling ore 37
miles on dirt roads.

Denison plans to haul the ore about 300 miles to a mill in Blanding, Utah.

"We're adding important new safeguards to ensure existing mines protect air and water quality near one of Arizona's most precious resources," said ADEQ director Benjamin Grumbles, "and we will be watching these facilities closely."

But Taylor McKinnon, public lands director for the Center for Biological Diversity, said the state's aquifer protection permits won't adequately guard water from uranium contamination.

"It's profoundly risky for ADEQ to act as the uranium industry's surrogate," he said. "But that's precisely what the permits suggest is going on."