Miner Editorial | Mining for uranium in Mohave County threatens lives
“If I thought for even a second that uranium mining could harm our county or the Colorado River, I wouldn’t be for it.” – Supervisor Buster Johnson
We believe Supervisor Johnson needs to take another second to think about whether uranium mining could harm the county or the Colorado River.
There is momentum to restart uranium mining in Mohave County. Supervisor Johnson and our congressman, Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Prescott, believe it is time to chase the pot of gold (or uranium) so Mohave County can become rich from the estimated $29 billion worth of uranium deposits in our land.
We haven’t been told who will become rich.
We’ve been promised that the mining companies of today would better mind the store than the mining that was done in the past. In 2017, Freeport McMoran, the world’s largest producer of molybdenum, and the second largest producer of copper according to the Environmental Protection Agency, reached a settlement with the U.S. Government and Navajo Nation for $600 million to clean up 94 abandoned uranium mines. The last mining that occurred on the nation was in 1986, not the 1940s or 1950s as some would have us to believe.
The issue with uranium is in the processing once it is taken from the ground. The milling process brings “high-grade uranium ores … to the surface where they are subject to weathering and transport processes at the land surface. This greatly increases the risk of human and environmental exposure to uranium and other constituents,” according to Stephen Maples, NFS Graduate Research Fellow at University of California, Davis.
There are about 1,000 water sources that could be impacted by uranium mining in Mohave County. Scientists admit that if a truckload of uranium was dumped into the Colorado River the impact there would be minimal due to the river’s large volume. They also admit this is unsettled because it can only be a thought experiment and not an actual one.
In order to get to these riches promised by uranium mining, a lot has to be put at risk. Perhaps it is true that the entire Colorado River could handle a uranium accident, but how about the immediate area?
Could Mohave County’s annual $75 million fishing industry handle it? “Those expenditures included food, lodging, gas, equipment rental, boat fuel, launching fees, bait, and miscellaneous shopping,” Mohave County Economic Development has posted on its website.
Uranium mining at this point has nothing to do with national security. The U.S. has 585 tons of enriched uranium in storage, enough for 23,000 nuclear weapons. The country has 1,600 of these weapons deployed and 6,450 in total.
The push by Rep. Gosar and the White House administration is to put uranium on a list of critical minerals, which would expedite the issuing of permits to mine uranium on public lands.
There are more than 15,000 abandoned uranium mines, and The Daily Miner implores those responsible for speaking on our behalf to protect us and not be on the side of uranium mining.
“Whatever decisions we make today, have the potential to threaten lives,” said Amber Reimondo, energy program director for the Grand Canyon Trust. “Not just this generation but our children and grandchildren.”
It’s nice to dream about having streets of gold. What we can’t have are streets of uranium.