Interior Department Finalizes 20-Year Ban on Grand Canyon Area Uranium Mining

Grand Canyon from the South Rim (photo by navajo)

Although the direction of the administration was made clear in October, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will on Monday finalize a 20-year ban on new uranium-mining on some one million acres of land near the Grand Canyon. The announcement will be made at the National Geographic Society HQ in Washington, D.C.

The ban, which is actually an extension of an existing ban, has been under consideration since 2009. Under the Bush administration, thousands of new mining claims had been encouraged under the 1872 Mining Act.

After Salazar’s position became clear when he chose “Alternative B” from the Bureau of Land Management’s final environmental impact statement on withdrawing lands, Republican lawmakers, including Sen. Orrin Hatch and Rep. Rob Bishop of Utah, as well as Sen. John McCain and Rep. Jeff Flake of Arizona, announced their intention to introduced legislation that would allow new uranium mining.

Alternative B bars 1,006,545 acres of federal lands from new mining. It allows previously approved operations to continue and some new operations on mining claims with valid existing rights. The federal lands are located on two parcels north of the Grand Canyon National Park and one parcel south of the Grand Canyon in the Kaibab National Forest.

The move no doubt would be approved by a Republican President unlike any we have seen since, Teddy Roosevelt, who said in a speech at the Grand Canyon more than a century ago:

Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it. What you can do is to keep it for your children, your children’s children, and for all who come after you, as one of the great sights which every American if he can travel at all should see.

We have gotten past the stage, my fellow-citizens, when we are to be pardoned if we treat any part of our country as something to be skinned for two or three years for the use of the present generation, whether it is the forest, the water, the scenery. Whatever it is, handle it so that your children’s children will get the benefit of it.”

Some people just can’t stand to see any land unmolested by development or mining. Thankfully, these million acres are getting another 20-year reprieve. But count on the “improvers” to be back licking their chops about 18 years from now.  

National Parks & American Indians: Grand Canyon

( – promoted by navajo)

American Indians have lived in and have utilized the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River for thousands of years. The Havasupai, whose farms are in the bottom of the canyon, were visited by the Spanish under the leadership of the missionary Francisco Garces in 1776. The Spanish followed a narrow trail into Cataract Canyon, a tributary to the Grand Canyon. The trail was narrow, steep, and perilous with a thousand foot drop-off. Some of Garces’ men finished the journey on their hands and knees as they were afraid to stand up. At the bottom of the canyon they encountered the Havasupai who were cultivating about 400 acres of land.



The United States acquired the Grand Canyon following a brief war with Mexico in 1848. In 1893, much of the winter range used by the Havasupai was set aside as the Grand Canyon Forest Reserve by executive order of President Benjamin Harrison. There was little or no consideration or recognition of Havasupai rights within this area.

Havasupai girl

In 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt visited the Grand Canyon. He rode down into the canyon and found Havasupai families headed by Yavñmi’ Gswedva (Dangling Beard) and Burro living at Indian Garden. According Havasupai oral tradition, President Roosevelt spoke to Gswedva (called Big Jim by the Americans) and informed him, through an interpreter, of the federal government’s intent to locate a park for the American people on Gswedva’s and Burro’s garden lands below the rim. To make such a park possible, he urged them to vacate the area.

In 1914, concerned about the talk regarding the establishment of Grand Canyon National Park, the Indian agent for the Havasupai made a request (one of several) to obtain plateau land for them. He wrote to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs:

“Out of this abundance it seems that these peacable [sic] and quiet people who have never opposed the approach of the white man nor disputed his progress might have enough on which to make an honest and plentiful living”

With regard to the requested plateau land, he wrote:

“This land is within the Forest Reserve, but in so far as the timber is concerned is of no value whatever.”

Legislation was introduced in Congress in 1917 to create the Grand Canyon National Park. The legislation made no mention of the Havasupai who inhabited the area and it is quite probable that the Secretary of the Interior was unaware that this Indian tribe was living in Cataract Canyon.

Grand Canyon National Park:

Congress created the Grand Canyon National Park in 1919. With regard to the Havasupai, the aboriginal dwellers of the area, the legislation states:

“That nothing herein contained shall affect the rights of the Havasupai Tribe of Indians to the use and occupancy of the bottom lands of the Canyon of Cataract Creek.”

Tribal members, at the discretion of the Secretary of the Interior, may be allowed to use and occupy other tracts of land within the park for agricultural purposes.

The newly created National Park is bordered by three Indian reservations: Navajo, Havasupai, and Hualapai. In addition, five more tribes consider parts of the Grand Canyon to be sacred areas: Hopi, Zuni, Kaibab Paiute, Shivwits Paiute, and San Juan Paiute.

In 1926, the National Park Service began construction of a sewer line to the Grand Canyon Village. The new sewer line was intended to service the growing non-Indian community at the South Rim. In constructing the sewer line, several Havasupai camps were relocated. The park superintendent set off a 160-acre plot for the Havasupai and told them that they could stay on it.

In 1926, the National Park Service proposed adjusting the Grand Canyon National Park boundary to include the Havasupai access road. While the Park Service usually goes to great lengths to avoid the private property of non-Indians, there was no concern for the Havasupai.

In 1928, much to the annoyance of the National Park Service, the Havasupai family of Burro was still farming Indian Garden within the Grand Canyon National Park. Two park rangers went down and chased him out. It was reported that Burro stood on the rim, looked down at the place and wept for it.

In 1934, the National Park Service decided that the traditional Havasupai homes west of Grand Canyon Village were an eyesore. Consequently the Park Service built ten cabins for the Havasupai. The Park Service then tore down and burned the traditional homes. The new cabins were rented to the Havasupai for $5 per month, which included neither maintenance nor repair. By moving the Havasupai families into rented cabins, the Park Service changed Havasupai into tenants and thus erased their aboriginal status.

The National Park Service in 1936 issued an order which stated that only Indians who worked in the park may be allowed to live in Yosemite (California), Grand Canyon (Arizona), and Death Valley (California).

In 1939, a non-Indian leased land from the state and built a fence around a spring in Cataract Canyon. This blocked the Havasupai cattle from the watering hole and 28 head of cattle died. The Havasupai complained to the National Park Service. The National Park Service contacted the Commissioner of Indian Affairs and suggested that the Havasupai be placed on the Hualapai reservation and that the 518 acres of the Havasupai reservation be transferred to the Grand Canyon National Park.

In 1940, the National Park Service, concerned about the Havasupai and Grand Canyon National Park, asked the Commissioner of Indian Affairs:

“What likelihood is there of moving the Supai Indians to the Hualapai Reservation and adding the Havasupai Reservation to the national park?”

This action showed shocking disregard to the Havasupais’ seven-hundred-year connection to their homeland.

In 1940, the superintendent of Grand Canyon National Park was reprimanded by a superior:

“Please make a point of referring to Indians, living or archaeological, as men, women, and children-not as bucks or braves, squaws or papooses.”

In 1955, the National Park Service informed the Havasupai families in the Grand Canyon National Park that they could remain only if they were employed. At this time, Grand Canyon National Park and the various concessioners began terminating Havasupai jobs within the park. Park officials began dismantling homes at the Havasupai residence camp. The Bureau of Indian Affairs had a truck available to haul the dispossessed and their belongings away.

In 1968, the Indian Claims Commission offered the Havasupai more than $1.2 million for the government’s deprivation of more than 2 million acres of their former range. The settlement came out to 55 cents per acre. The lands involved included a portion of the Grand Canyon National Park.

The Havasupai held a public meeting on the offer. Tribal chairman Daniel Kaska urged those present not to accept the offer:

“We want the land; we don’t want the money. What happens to our land if we take this money?”

The tribal attorney, however, informed them that this course of action was not available to them: if they refused the money, then they would get nothing. When put to a vote, 52 voted to accept the offer and only 10 voted against it.

The following year, having learned of the Indian Court of Claims judgment regarding the Havasupai land claim, the National Park Service began consulting with the Sierra Club and other groups to incorporate the tribe’s permit areas into the Grand Canyon National Park. This would place more restrictions on tribal use. The tribe was not consulted.

In 1971, the National Park Service and the Sierra Club completed the third draft of their plan for incorporating Havasupai permit areas into the Grand Canyon National Park. However, the tribe’s attorney obtained a copy of the planning document and notified the tribe. In the master plan map, there was no Havasupai Reservation: the area was shown as a part of the park.

In response to their discovery of this planning process, the Havasupai met with the superintendent of Grand Canyon National Park. At the public hearing regarding the plan, tribal chairman Lee Marshall stated:

“I heard you people talking about the Grand Canyon. Well, you’re looking at it. I am the Grand Canyon.”

He then went on to ask for the return of the Park Service campground and the Havasupai residence area at Grand Canyon Village. He asked that the park provide the Havasupai preferential employment. Following the public meeting, the Havasupai Tribal Council held an all-day meeting with the elders. The tribal elders indicated that they wanted the return of park and forest permit areas. Neither the Park Service nor the Forest Service, however, would consider the tribe’s plan.

In 1972, the Havasupai appealed to both the Secretary of the Interior (who is in charge of national parks, including the Grand Canyon National Park) and the Secretary of Agriculture (who is in charge of national forests). Concerning their traditional use areas which are administered by the Forest Service and the National Park Service, they wrote:

“We care more deeply for the beauty of our land than Sunday hikers or professional environmentalists because this land is part of us, and we live on it… We are human beings with the right to survive, not rocks or dust. This is not a zoo.”

While both agencies promised to respond to the letter, neither did. The Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth mounted a nationwide campaign of opposition to the Havasupai land return. Their campaign left the impression that the Havasupai planned to put Disneyland on the plateau of the Grand Canyon.

Finally, in 1975, President Gerald Ford signed legislation which enlarged the Havasupai reservation and guaranteed them the use of 95,000 acres within Grand Canyon National Park. The government also acknowledged the rights of the Havasupai to access sacred sites which are outside of their reservation.  With this act, they had overcome numerous political obstacles and what seemed impossible odds.  


Ancient America: The Grand Canyon

About 17 million years ago, the Colorado River began to create the Grand Canyon. In terms of geology, the Grand Canyon is 277 miles long; it is up to 18 miles wide; and in some places it is more than a mile deep. It first enters European history in 1540 when Spanish explorers with Hopi guides travelled to the South Rim. Since parts of the Grand Canyon are sacred to the Hopi, the Hopi guides did not show the Spanish the trails to the bottom. The Spanish were not the first non-Indians to see the wonders of the Grand Canyon: In 485 CE, a group of Buddhist monks under the leadership of Hwui Shan were shown the Grand Canyon by the Hopi. When they returned to China, they recorded their observations in the state records.

Grand Canyon ancestors

While both the Spanish and the Buddhists left written records, American Indians have known about, visited, and lived in the Grand Canyon for thousands of years. Our evidence of this comes from the archaeological record as well as oral traditions.

By 5000 BCE, Indian people were creating anthropomorphic rock art images in the White River drainage area. These rock art sites, called the Barrier Canyon Style by archaeologists, served as religious shrines or ceremonial places. They are located in remote places and depict large, shamanistic figures. Many of the figures appear to be ghostly and may represent trance-state experiences. At some sites the rock paintings appear to have been the work of one person or a limited number of people. This suggests that they were probably made by a select few artists or shamans.

Hunting and gathering people, known to archaeologists as the Desert Archaic Peoples, were living in the Grand Canyon by 3000 BCE,

By 2390 BCE, Indian people were creating shrine caves high in the walls of the Grand Canyon. In these caves there were rows of rock cairns. Some of the cairns were made of only piles of rock. Others were made of combinations of rocks and pieces of late Pleistocene packrat midden that had been dug out of larger middens in the cave. Some of the cairns incorporated horn sheaths from the extinct Harrington’s mountain goat as well as split-twig figures. The use of the mountain goat remains suggest that the people considered the mountain goat fossils unusual.

Indian people continued to use the Grand Canyon for spiritual or ceremonial purposes. Archaeologists found that by 2000 BCE, Indian people were placing miniature figures in caves in the walls of the Grand Canyon. The caves were difficult to reach because of the sheer precipices and lack handholds and footholds. These figures were made by bending and folding a single willow twig. Most of these figures are thought to represent deer or bighorn sheep, while others may represent antelope. The figures may have been made for use in hunting medicine. The objects were placed under flat rocks or small cairns, and no accompanying relics have ever been found.

There is evidence that by 700 CE Indian people had established farming on both the North and South rims of the Grand Canyon. With the increase in precipitation in the area about 1000 CE, there was an increase in the number of people who were living in the Grand Canyon. At this time, the Indian farmers were constructing terraced fields for their corn, beans, squash, and cotton. These terraces covered the rich deltas where side canyons meet the Colorado. The Grand Canyon farmers built cliff granaries to hold excess seeds and hunters stalked deer at higher elevations.

At this time (1000 CE) the Havasupai moved from the Coconino Plateau into Cataract Creek Canyon, a side canyon of the Grand Canyon. Their living site on the canyon floor could be reached only by a narrow trail which snaked down from the plateau. Here they began to call themselves “the people of the blue water.” Within 50 years, the Havasupai were cultivating lands on the floor of the Grand Canyon on a permanent basis. This was the beginning of the characteristic Havasupai economic pattern based on summer irrigation agriculture in the canyon and winter hunting-gathering on the plateau.

Havasu Falls

By 1050 BCE, ancestral Puebloans had communities on the floor of the Grand Canyon near arable deltas and on the rim of the canyon. They would alternate their residences seasonally between these two areas. With a 5,600-foot elevation differential, this gave these farmers the advantage of a long growing season. There were now several hundred pueblos along the base of the canyon.

At this same time, a small, single family dwelling was constructed at Walhalla Glades on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. The Indians at Walhalla Glades probably moved into the inner canyon in winter to avoid the frigid temperatures and deep snows of the North Rim’s eight-thousand-foot elevation.

Within the Grand Canyon, Indian people built a pithouse at Bright Angel (a popular tourist spot today) about 1050 CE. Fifteen years later they abandoned this pithouse. Fifty years later, Indian people built a small pueblo at Bright Angel. They were farming a small garden. This pueblo was occupied for about 90 years.

A major regional drought started in 1225 and as a result, most of the Grand Canyon was deserted with regard to permanent occupation. Indian people continued to use it for ceremonial purposes, and the Havasupai still live there year-round.  

Grand Canyon Skywalk

Uranium Mining almost near Grand Canyon and is Elsewhere!

( – promoted by navajo)


A British mining company is about to begin exploratory drilling for toxic, radioactive uranium in Kaibab National Forest just outside the eco-fragile boundaries of Grand Canyon National Park.

Of course, the idea of uranium is being sold as if it were an absolute necessity.

Do these companies really care about the beauty of the Earth Mother,


they’re altering for the worst?


(only photo of a uranium mine I could find)



This ill-conceived drilling is powerful evidence that tighter restrictions must be enacted to protect the Canyon. It further indicates the critical need to modernize the General Mining Act of 1872, which authorizes mining for economic minerals on federal public lands.

Funny thing about that capitalistic motivation is that in spite of it, there is now an example of an energy efficient home from Extreme Makeover.

So, let’s consider clean energy usage from that new Navajo home verses “high levels of cancer and areas of radioactivity.”


Uranium mining has been linked to high levels of cancer and areas of radioactivity on the Navajo Reservation. The tribe has banned it. The various mining techniques used all risk contaminating the groundwater aquifer or surface water.

Next, let’s consider clean energy usage from that new Navajo home verses “how the uranium mining will affect their water, livestock and their families.”


People in Wyoming and South Dakota are afraid of how the uranium mining will affect their water, livestock and their families, just like their Coloradan neighbors to the south, but they are more afraid of the ramifications of speaking up, White Face said.

Last of all, let’s consider clean energy usage from that new Navajo home verses “Uranium dust from abandoned open-pit mines in Wyoming makes its way into South Dakota, she said, and it even finds its way into the Cheyenne River, which flows into South Dakota’s Black Hills, uranium-rich in its own right.”


White Face said she’s seen firsthand the sorts of things uranium can do to public health, even in more remote parts of the United States. Uranium dust from abandoned open-pit mines in Wyoming makes its way into South Dakota, she said, and it even finds its way into the Cheyenne River, which flows into South Dakota’s Black Hills, uranium-rich in its own right.

Oh wait,
we need to consider clean energy usage from that new Navajo home verses “… make(ing) yellowcake. That material can be turned into weapons-grade uranium or enhanced for use in nuclear power plants.”


Groundwater is oxidized and turned into a solution called a “lixiviant,” which is forced down into the sandstone layers, where the uranium is essentially drawn to combine with the water. The solution is pumped back to the surface and combined with resin beads in a process that works basically the same way as a home water softener. Molecules of uranium hop on to the resin beads, which are taken to a processing facility to strip the uranium off, refine it and make yellowcake. That material can be turned into weapons-grade uranium or enhanced for use in nuclear power plants.

I’d said earlier that there’s a funny thing about that capitalistic motivation,

The military-industrial complex is generally defined as a “coalition consisting of the military and industrialists who profit by manufacturing arms and selling them to the government.”

which is why I don’t foresee the clean energy usage from that new Navajo home being used widely anytime soon, or in my lifetime.

Uranium mining is no solution to the impending doom of it now being merely five minutes to midnight,

(emphasis mine)


The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ Doomsday Clock conveys how close humanity is to catastrophic destruction–the figurative midnight–and monitors the means humankind could use to obliterate itself. First and foremost, these include nuclear weapons, but they also encompass climate-changing technologies and new developments in the life sciences and nanotechnology that could inflict irrevocable harm.

– snip –

Unfortunately, however, the possibility of a nuclear exchange between countries remains.

as uranium mining becomes more common, it may facilitate even more “possibility of a nuclear exchange between countries,”  drawing us closer to midnight.

Threat of Nuclear Autumn

Famine sweeps the Third World. A billion people flee across borders. Vast regions become abandoned. Governments fall. Hundreds of millions die.

This is the future that might overwhelm the planet if any of the eight nuclear-armed countries – or the 35 other countries with enough weapons-grade fuel build their own bombs – start blasting their enemy’s cities with low-yield nuclear weapons.

(Take accordingly. I don’t think anyone but real intelligence has the real numbers, but the point is made)

Where are the bombs?

Pakistan –
– 52 warheads

India –
– 85 warheads

Israel –
– 116 warheads

Britain –
– 200 + warheads

France –
– 350 warheads

China —
 400 warheads

– 10,315 warheads

Russia –
– 16,200 warheads

Think how much uranium had to be used to make all those nuclear weapons and how much beautiful land had to be ruined. Furthermore, think of how much “uranium dust from abandoned open-pit mines” caused health problems, how much uranium mining affected “water, livestock, and families,” and the cumulative effects of the “high levels of cancer and areas of radioactivity” caused by all those uranium mines.

The uranium mining companies must be soooooooooooooo concerned about the possible future of our planet,


or not.

Crossposted at The Wild Wild Left