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A Mayfair mining company has caused uproar with plans to extract uranium from the Grand Canyon – prompting one official to ask how Britons would react “if an American company went to drill at Stonehenge”.
The Mayfair company VANE Minerals is at the forefront of this scramble, planning to drill at up to 39 spots on seven sites within the Kaibab National Forest, which borders both the north and south rims of the Grand Canyon, in north-central Arizona. A further thousand claims are thought to be pending from other companies – up from just ten in 2003.
Environmentalists point out that uranium is both a toxic heavy metal and a source of radiation. As a result it could kill local wildlife and poison the water in the Colorado River Aqueduct, which provides drinking water to Los Angeles and much of southern California, Tribal leaders also complain that they have previously been forced to clean up after bankrupt mining concerns, while radiological assessments at one past exporation site – the Orphan Mine – have shown gamma-radiation at more than 450 times the background level after uranium was brought closer to the surface.
A full hearing of the case is expected to be held this summer.
Uranium now sells for around $65/lb, up from $9.70 in 2002