USGS includes Indigenous knowledge in Grand Canyon uranium study

Feb 12, 2024

new report published by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) incorporates Indigenous knowledge to explore potential risks posed by the Pinyon Plain uranium mine in Arizona. The inclusion of Tribal perspectives gives the new report a more complete view of mining impacts than previous analyses. “This report serves as an example for other Tribal and federal managers who want to co-produce similar work,” said report co-author Jo Ellen Hinck of the USGS. “This work is the culmination of eight years of relationship- and trust-building, and we are proud of the final product.” Hinck co-authored the report with Havasupai Councilwoman Carletta Tilousi.

Journalist Jonathan Thompson explores the report in his newsletter, The Land Desk. Pinyon Plain mine is located just 10 miles from the Grand Canyon and is within the boundaries of the newly designated Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni – Ancestral Footprints of the Grand Canyon National Monument. The mine sits above the Redwall-Muav aquifer and could contaminate groundwater that the Havasupai Tribe relies on. The report also outlines pathways of exposure that are often overlooked, such as gathered medicines, ceremonial plants, and construction materials.

“If the R-Aquifer becomes contaminated, and we must abandon our ancestral home of Supai Village, we will leave the blue-green waters of Havasu Creek behind and consequently will cease to be the Havasuw Baja,” said Havasupai Vice-Chairman Edmond Tilousi in the report. “While we may still breathe air, we, the People of the Blue Green Water, will have become extinct.”

The mine is permitted to operate within the national monument because Energy Fuels held an existing, valid claim before the monument designation. However, a coalition of conservation and faith groups, Tribes, and scientists are urging Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs to rescind a state-approved water permit for the mine and are requesting that the Forest Service conduct a new environmental impact statement incorporating updated research and Tribal input.

New podcast episode: Uranium mining returns to the Colorado Plateau

Driven by high uranium prices, domestic uranium mining has resumed at three locations in the U.S. after an eight-year hiatus. In the latest episode of The Landscape, Kate and Aaron are joined by Amber Reimondo, Energy Director at the Grand Canyon Trust, and Scott Clow, Environmental Programs Director for the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, to discuss how that will impact the Grand Canyon and Tribal communities on the Colorado Plateau.

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Quote of the day

We’re faced with two truths: We have a climate change crisis, but we also have a biodiversity crisis. We have to be mindful that there’s wildlife that are dependent on these habitats, and we have to be smart and thoughtful about how we’re doing this deployment so that we can hold both of those crises at the same time.”

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Picture This

Great Sand Dunes national park Colorado


Behold, National Park LVIII.

Located between San Francisco and Kansas City, @greatsanddunesnps in Colorado became America’s 58th national park in 2004.

Just as many fans today are wearing red, the massive dunes and snow-capped peaks look great in red too. When the sun’s angle is low across the vast San Luis Valley, an atmospheric haze bends light waves toward the red spectrum, causing a warm red alpenglow.

Photos by Patrick Myers / NPS

#colorado #greatsanddunes #greatsanddunesnationalpark #publiclands


Featured photo: Contaminant exposure framework for uranium mining in the Grand Canyon region from the Havasupai perspective. Photographs by Blake McCord and Dawn Beauty. Source: USGS