A Canadian mining company will be allowed to resume uranium mining near the north rim of the Grand Canyon, based on a 24-year-old environmental statement that the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals says is still adequate.
Environmentalists on Monday lost their effort to block resumption of uranium mining at Canyon Mine in Mohave County, Arizona, less than seven miles north of Grand Canyon National Park. The mine is located in a one-million acre watershed where mining was banned by the Obama Administration. But that does not include existing plans already approved.
The Bureau of Land Management approved an environmental assessment of mining at Canyon Mine in 1988, but the mine ceased operation just four years later when the price of uranium make it uneconomical. The mine was placed on standby status and facilities maintained. Ownership of the mine changed hands through merger and acquisition until Denison Mines Corp. in Canada took it over and asked to restart mining in 2009.
The Center for Biological Diversity, the Grand Canyon Trust, Sierra Club and Native American tribes challenged the plan. The trial judge refused to block the mining and it resumed in 2009.
The challengers argued the cessation of mining in the 1990s rendered the environmental plan ineffective and that it should be updated.
Judge Clifford Wallace wrote that temporary closure does not render a plan ineffective.
“While the regulations provide for temporary closures and identify what a mine operator must do when it ‘stops conducting operations,’ no regulation requires approval of a new plan of operations before regular mining activities may recommence following a temporary closure,” Wallace wrote.
The BLM pointed out an approved plan of operations has a financial value to the owner of the mine, Wallace said.
“The whole time that a plan of operations is valid includes both active and non-active periods,” he said.
That does not mean they live in perpetuity, but plans outline the life of a project with finite limits spelled out in the plan, he said.
Wallace was joined by Judge Carlos Bea and visiting Judge Jane Restani of the Court of International Trade.
Case: Center for Biological Diversity v. Salazar, No. 11-17843