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Navajo-Hopi Observer | Flagstaff, Arizona

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8/27/2013 10:19:00 AM
Judge cancels Aug. 20 uranium hearing
Stan Bindell
The Observer

GRAND CANYON, Ariz. - A federal judge cancelled an Aug. 20 hearing calling for a preliminary injunction to stop the Canyon Mine near the Grand Canyon.

U.S. Judge Campbell ruled that he didn't need to hear oral arguments and would make a decision in the next two to three weeks based on written information he already has from both sides.

The Grand Canyon Trust, Sierra Club and some members of the Havasupai Tribe have filed the lawsuit against the mine mostly because of concerns about the watershed. However, Havasupai Chairman Don Watahomigie said comments in past articles do not reflect the feelings of the Havasupai Tribal Council and that the council has not adopted a position for or against the uranium mine.

Dennison Mining Co. defends the operation of the mine.

The federal court judge will only determine whether a preliminary injunction should be issued to stop the mine until the court hears a bigger lawsuit against the mine in the fall. The preliminary injunction will decide whether the uranium mine causes any immediate threat.

Roger Clark, spokesman for the Grand Canyon Trust, said there are two main issues. The first question is whether the U.S. Forest Service allowed the mine to go forward without consulting the Havasupai Tribe, which considers the land sacred.

The second question is whether the U.S. Forest Service failed to update the 1986 Environmental Impact Statement because new information has come to light since that time.

Havasupai Vice Chairman Matthew Putesoy, Sr., was among three Havasupai officials who recently met near the Red Butte site with Sierra Club President Michael Brune. The group found that the mining company is in the early stages of drilling.

Brune said the Sierra Club supports the Havasupai's effort to stop the uranium mine, emphasizing that the Sierra Club will join the effort to do anything it can politically or legally to stop the mine.

"This is a long process, but we want to make sure that their concerns are heard and responded to," he said.

Brune said the tribe's main concern is making sure that the Grand Canyon watershed is protected from uranium contamination. He noted that the Obama administration is working on a plan to protect the Grand Canyon watershed.

Vice Chairman Putesoy said the meeting with Brune went well because they discussed options for stopping the mine. He said the watershed near the mine needs to be tested for quality and quantity.

"We want this uranium mining stopped," he said. "It was good to have the top person there from the Sierra Club. We had a good conversation and he was impacted by seeing the site."

Vice Chairman Putesoy said the U.S. Geological Survey from Flagstaff has agreed to perform the water testing, but money has yet to be identified to pay for the study.


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