New uranium mines: no simple answers – by Emery Cowan (Arizona Daily Sun – October 15, 2017)

A town on the edge of the Navajo Nation that unknowingly drank uranium-tainted water for at least 12 years. Navajo babies showing increasing uranium concentrations during their first year of life.

Children swimming in natural pools near Cameron they later learned had been filled with water from abandoned uranium mines. The stories about the impacts of Cold War-era uranium mining on the Navajo Nation became highly personal during a forum hosted at the Museum of Northern Arizona Wednesday night.

Four decades later, the subject has come to the fore again as a grandfathered uranium mine moves forward with operations south of Tusayan and a new president stokes fears about the reopening of 1 million acres of the Grand Canyon watershed outside the national park to new mining.

“The 20-year mineral withdrawal is now up for grabs under the current administration,” the Grand Canyon Trust’s Roger Clark said Wednesday night. Among most at the forum, the thinking was obvious: Allowing more mining around the Grand Canyon is opening the door to repeating past mistakes.

But as it stands, researchers haven’t yet determined if data from soils, waters and living inhabitants largely supports or refutes such a fear. They are still nailing down possible sources of high uranium measured in a handful of waters in the watershed, are just starting to understand how water travels through rock layers that surround the breccia pipe uranium mines and have completed only an initial set of studies on how surface operations could impact nearby plants and animals.

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