Grand Canyon Uranium Mine Work Put On Hold

A uranium mining company drilling near Grand Canyon National Park put its work on hold because of market conditions and the cost of litigation.

The company, Energy Fuels Resources Inc., paused the operation until December 2014 or until a ruling is issued in a federal case challenging the US Forest Service’s decision to allow the Canyon Mine’s development.

The uranium mine will allow Energy Fuels to extract about 83,000 tons of ore to produce 1.6 million pounds of processed uranium, or yellow cake, in 2015, reports The Colorado Springs Gazette.

However, the company will now re-evaluate the timeline. The mine is still an important part of the company’s medium-term plans, according to Stephen Antony, Energy Fuels president and chief executive. Antony added that they will continue working with the Forest Service to defend the project.

The mine is inside a nearly 1 million-acre area that was placed off-limits to new mining claims last year. Companies who had existing claims in the area had to prove they had sufficient quantity and quality of mineral resources to develop, notes Bloomberg Businessweek.

Energy Fuels’ litigation issues began this time when the Havasupai Tribe and several environmental groups sued the Forest Service over what they believe is an outdated environmental review of the area. The groups added that the Forest Service didn’t consult with the tribe about the mine’s impacts on a butte it holds sacred. Energy Fuels intervened in the case.

The parties all signed on to an agreement this week that puts the mine on standby so that the groups don’t go ahead with the court case. The agreement also puts an appeal on hold of a ruling that happened earlier this year. In that case, the court denied the plaintiff’s request for a preliminary injunction on the mine.

Energy Fuels purchased the Canyon Mine last year from Denison Mines Corp. The hoist, evaporation ponds, environmental monitoring facilities, and buildings at the site are already complete. The mine shaft was dug to about 300 feet as well, but needs to reach 1,500 feet to access the uranium below.

[Image via ShutterStock]