By Lindsay Potter
On August 8, President Biden designated the Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni — Ancestral Footprints of the Grand Canyon National Monument in northern Arizona. The national monument protects 917,000 acres of public Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service land, sacred to indigenous peoples and tribal nations, that borders Grand Canyon National Park.
Though the designation prohibits new mining projects in the area, it allows currently permitted mining operations to continue. Energy Fuels, Inc. told Native News Online it plans to move forward with uranium mining at the existing Pinyon Plain Mine, six miles from Grand Canyon National Park. Pinyon Plain is one of two idled uranium mines located right above Hack Canyon, that drains into the Colorado River, drinking water for 40 million people.
Thousands of abandoned uranium mines, most of which operated without proper worker and environmental safety precautions and whose tailings piles still poison land and water, have heavily affected nearby Navajo and Havasupai tribes. “Many of us have worked for decades to safeguard our homelands from desecration at the hands of extractive, harmful operations like uranium mining, and today we see these lands permanently protected,” Grand Canyon Tribal Coalition coordinator Carletta Tilousi said in a statement.