Energy Fuels’ lobbying campaign, elements of which were first reported by The Washington Post, can be part of a wider effort by the long-ailing uranium industry to make a comeback.
The Uranium Producers of America, an industry group, can be 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 brand-new uranium mining on more than a million acres of land adjacent to the Grand Canyon.
For the Navajo, the drive for brand-new mines can be a painful flashback.
“Back then, we didn’t know the item was dangerous — nobody told us,” Mr. Holiday said, as he pointed to the gashes of discolored rocks which mark where the old uranium mines cut into the region’s mesas. “right now they know. They know.”
Supporters of the mining say which a revival of domestic uranium production, which has declined by 0 percent since 1980 amid slumping prices in addition to foreign competition, will make the United States a larger player inside global uranium market.
the item might expand the country’s energy independence, they say, in addition to give a lift to nuclear power, still a pillar of carbon-free power generation. Canada, Kazakhstan, Australia, Russia in addition to 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 which allowed Russia’s nuclear agency to buy Uranium One, a company which has amassed production facilities inside United States. The Justice Department can be examining allegations which donations to the Clinton Foundation were tied to which decision.
“If we consider nuclear a clean energy, if people are serious about which, domestic uranium has to be inside equation,” said Jon J. Indall, a lawyer for Uranium Producers of America. “yet the proposed regulations might 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 Inner surface: 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 which marked the pockets the company wanted removed: areas adjacent to its White Mesa Mill, just to the east of the monument, in addition to its Daneros Mine, which the item can be 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 tour in addition to can be sympathetic to Energy Fuels’ position. “They were there representing their business interest.”
Mr. Zinke has insisted which mining played no role inside decision to shrink Bears Ears, in addition to a department spokeswoman said he had met with interested parties on all sides.
yet President Trump has prioritized scrapping environmental regulations to help revitalize domestic energy production. His executive order instructing Mr. Zinke to review Bears Ears said 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 item, given proper local approvals. yet companies say which expanding the sites, or even building roads to access them, might have required special permits, driving up costs.
Energy Fuels said the item had sold its Bears Ears claims to a smaller company, Encore Energy, in 2016. yet Encore issued shares to Energy Fuels in return, doing Energy Fuels Encore’s largest shareholder, using a seat on its board.
Curtis Moore, an Energy Fuels spokesman, said the company had played only a modest part inside decision to shrink Bears Ears. The company proposed scaling back the monument by just 2.5 percent, he said, in addition to 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 Inner surface Department arguing there were “many different known uranium in addition to vanadium deposits” in Bears Ears in addition to urging the department to shrink the monument away via the company’s “existing or future operations.” Vanadium can be mostly used as a steel additive.
A bill introduced last month by Representative John Curtis, Republican of Utah, might codify Mr. Trump’s cuts to the monument while banning further drilling or mining within the original boundaries. yet environmental groups say the bill has little chance of passing at all, let alone before the monument can be 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.
brand-new mine, brand-new challenges
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