Five weeks before President Joe Biden announced a historic new ban on new uranium mining around the Grand Canyon, Sarana Riggs approached the barbed-wire fence surrounding an inactive mine in an Arizona national forest, a Geiger counter in her hand. The Geiger counter didn’t detect any dangerous radiation that day from the Pinyon Plain mine, about two miles from the spot where Biden would sign the monument proclamation. But Riggs wasn’t convinced.
The activist grew up on the Navajo Nation near Tuba City, Arizona, where a uranium mill operated until 1966. It took another 24 years to clean up the site, and yet uranium was still found later in groundwater beneath the town dump.
If uranium prices keep rising, Pinyon Plain’s owners, Energy Fuels Inc., intend to begin mining there and truck the radioactive ore 265 miles through the Navajo Nation, where uranium mining is banned, to Blanding, Utah, where it operates the nation’s only active conventional uranium mill.
At least nine other companies are exploring or planning to prospect for uranium at more than 25 sites across the Colorado Plateau, a region that touches Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Arizona. Energy Fuels envisions the White Mesa Mill processing most of the uranium.
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