One of the little-told stories in the debate over the fate of Bears Ears National Monument is the Daneros uranium mine. While the boundaries of Bears Ears were drawn explicitly to allow for the mine’s projected expansion, Daneros opposes the monument. Apparently, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and President Trump are on their side.
Despite the fact that 96 percent of public comments submitted to the Interior Department were pro-monument , Secretary Zinke is calling for Bears Ears to be “right-sized” (read: reduced or eliminated).
Many have asked, why would the Trump administration seek to get rid of a popular monument like Bears Ears? It seems that once again industry insiders and special interests are getting the final say at the Interior Department.
Expanding the Daneros mine is not just a bad excuse for rescinding Bears Ears, it’s a bad deal for our country. Here are three reasons why:
The mine is in the Red Canyon area, home to some of the richest archaeological and natural sites in our country. Estimates are that the area contains more than 100,000 archaeological and cultural sites.
Many of these sites have already been compromised after being left out of the monument designation to accommodate the Daneros mine. Further reducing the Bears Ears monument would put more of these irreplaceable cultural and scientific resources at risk.
The area’s exclusion from the monument has led paleontologists to worry they may lose records of dinosaur’s “climb to terrestrial dominance.”
The Daneros mine is owned by Energy Fuels Inc. (EFI), a Canadian company that exports a large percentage of its uranium overseas, particularly to Chinese power companies. Between 2012 and 13, EFI exported 464,287 pounds of Uranium to Canada’s Cameco Corporation, which signed a deal with China in 2010 to provide 23 million pounds of Uranium over 10 years.
American taxpayers would see little revenue from the mine’s production. Daneros’ uranium “is not subject to a federal royalty, as is the case with coal, oil and gas,” according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
EFI has historically shipped uranium to Canada using trucking contractor RSB Logistics, which has a record of uranium accidents. The consequences of an accident could be incredibly grave for the protected areas in the monument.
The ore will most likely be transported to the nearby White Mesa Mill, which was found to have received trucks delivering mining waste that leaked and spilled “radioactive sludge.” Radiation levels at the site of the accident were found to exceed legal limits set by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.