To the editor:
In response to the February 25th letter, "Uranium mining no threat to watershed," I would like to disagree. The watershed of Grand Canyon is vitally important to the Canyon's wildlife, indigenous peoples of the area, those who recreate in northern Arizona, and all those who depend on water from the Colorado River.
The writer's quote about the USGS report SIR 2010-5025 is very misleading. In fact, right in the abstarct, Andrea Alpine states, "...Uranium mining within the watershed may increase the amount of radioactive materials and heavy metals in the surface water and groundwater flowing into Grand Canyon National Park and the Colorado River, and deep mining activities may increase mobilization of uranium through the rock strata into the aquifers. In addition, waste rock and ore from mined areas may be transported away from the mines by wind and runoff.”
Also: “USGS scientists analyzed water samples from 428 sites in the region and reported that 70 sites exceeded maximum contaminant levels for uranium and other heavy metals. ...The contamination is caused partly by direct contact with naturally occurring uranium ore, but also by mining processes, the report says.”
The 1872 mining act allows for dangerous activities to occur on and threaten public lands. Mining in the region is not only dangerous to the Grand Canyon's watershed and its seeps and springs; uranium mining also threatens local cities, tourism, local indigenous nations and cultural resources. The Canyon Mine, for instance, is located a mere 4 miles from Red Butte, a place that is sacred to Havasupai and other indigenous peoples. Mining in this area also threatens their water supply.
Also in the USGS’s study, page 295, in regards to the wildlife of the area: “Uranium and other radionuclides can be transported through the environment and contribute to exposure of biological receptors via atmospheric deposition, dust, runoff, erosion and deposition, groundwater and surface water, and the food chain.”
The entire watershed, wildlife, Northern Arizona residents, and indigenous people of the area are threatened by these activities. The Grand Canyon watershed needs further protection in order for mining interests to stop putting us all at risk. To say that this is not important is foolhardy.