Tribes urge Congress to make Grand Canyon mining ban permanent – St George News
Grand Canyon, Arizona, date unspecified | Photo courtesy of the National Park Service, St. George News
ST. GEORGE – Members of indigenous tribes living in or near the Grand Canyon are calling on Congress to make permanent the temporary ban on uranium mining near the park.
A bill pending in the US Senate would codify an executive order from the Obama administration banning new uranium mines on approximately one million acres in northern Arizona surrounding the iconic national park.
Tribes and environmental groups supporting the Grand Canyon Protection Act have said the ban would protect the drinking water of tribal communities and the Lower Colorado River watershed.
Carletta Tilousi, a member of the Havasupai Tribal Council and the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council, said mining for the radioactive element puts the land and waterways in and near the canyon in extreme danger.
âWe don’t want the earth to be contaminated,â Tilousi said. “We are really concerned that water is seeping into the Colorado River and will not only contaminate the Grand Canyon, but will also contaminate people living downstream.”
The Havasupai, who live inside the Grand Canyon, were joined by the Navajo, Hopi and other tribes in demand more stringent protections. Supporters of mining say adequate environmental safeguards can be provided near mines and have warned the ban would endanger the United States’ strategic uranium supply.
Tilousi is an adviser to the Biden administration on environmental justice issues. She noted that the Havasupai have been fighting mining interests since the mid-1980s, and stressed that a particular area targeted for mining activity is sacred to its people.
âRed Butte is our sacred mountain,â explained Tilousi. âIt is a center of our creation stories and the emergence of our people. So we want to keep this mountain protected.
Tilousi added that there is a decades-long history of environmental damage and pollution on tribal lands from uranium mining.
âWe need all the support we can get to protect the Grand Canyon,â said Tilousi. “A lot of damage has already been done in the past, and we want to make sure that what is left will remain protected from environmental contamination.”
Written by MARK RICHARDSON, Arizona News Connection.
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