Since time immemorial what is now known as the “Grand Canyon” has been held sacred by Havasupai, Haualapai, Yavapai, Kaibab Band of Paiute, Diné, Hopi, Zuni, Las Vegas Tribe of Paiute, Moapa Band of Paiute, Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah, San Juan Southern Paiute, & Yavapai-Apache Nation.
1540 Spanish invaders searching for gold are first europeans to visit the “Grand Canyon.”
1850s increased settlement and tourism by European Americans led to increasing pressure to privatize and exploit the canyon land and its resources.
1866 Hualapai chief Wauba Yoman murdered by white settlers prompting a three-year war against the U.S.
1872 General Mining Act of 1872 established by the US Government. This opens up Indigenous lands, claimed as “public lands” for exploitation.
Initial mining claims at the canyon included lead, zinc, asbestos, and copper.
1882 Havasupai Nation forcibly removed from from South Rim of Grand Canyon and confined to 518-acre reservation near Havasu Canyon.
1883 Grand Canyon Forest Reserve established.
1893 Orphan Mine claim near south rim of Grand Canyon made. The site was patented in 1906 by Daniel Hogan & Charlie Babbitt for Copper.
1898 Forest Supervisor attempts to restrict Havasupai to the Canyon reservation, saying that the Grand Canyon “. . . should be preserved for the everlasting pleasure and instruction of our intelligent citizens as well as those of foreign countries. Henceforth, I deem it just and necessary to keep the wild and unappreciable Indian from off the Reserve.”
1919 Grand Canyon National park established, more Havasupai forcibly removed from
the canyon including from the area known as “Indian Gardens.” Havasupai are given 150,000 additional acres for grazing though preferred grazing permits were given to white settlers.
1920s Havasupai families established at least two “construction camps” in Grand Canyon village, many of these residence areas were relocated by the Park service to a site that became known as Supai Camp. In 1926 the park relocated all other Havasupai camps to the current 160 acre site of Supai Camp.
1930s Forced removal of Havasupai people continued from Grand Canyon park area, the Park service rounded up Havasupai, hauled them off in trucks and their homes burned down. Attempts by the Park Service to remove Supai Camp residents continued until the 1970s.
1940s After the end of World War II, the United States encouraged uranium mining to build nuclear weapons stockpiles. Large uranium deposits were found on and in and around the Navajo Nation. Disregarding the health risks of radiation exposure, private companies and the United States Atomic Energy Commission failed to inform the Indigenous mine workers about the dangers and to regulate the mining to minimize contamination. Today more than 523 abounded uranium mines are located throughout the Navajo Nation.
1950s Uranium mining around Grand Canyon begins. Orphan Mine claim acquired by Western Gold and Uranium, Inc. (later Westec, Inc.) in 1953. Mining continued until around 1970. Orphan Mine produced 800,000 tons of ore, yielding 13 million pounds of uranium. After being abandoned for years, the mine was acquired by the National Park Service and reclaimed.
1970s The U.S. Geological Survey (“USGS”) began studying uranium deposits in the area and produced maps detailing breccia pipe deposits.
1970 Forest Service approves exploratory drilling by Energy Fuels Nuclear near Red Butte and uranium is located in the area. The company files the Canyon Mine claim.
1975 U.S. Congress passed Grand Canyon National Park Enlargement Act which returned 185,000 acres of Havasupai lands. This act was opposed by environmental groups such as the Sierra Club who also wanted to “conserve” the areas where Havasupai lived.
July 16, ’79 The Church Rock uranium mill spill occurred in New Mexico when United Nuclear Corporation’s Church Rock uranium mill tailings disposal pond breached its dam. This was the largest radioactive accident in US history. It continues to impact Diné communities who live in and around the area.
1980s –‘90s Six new uranium mines produced almost 1.5 million tons of uranium and more than 900 exploration holes were drilled in the Tusayan Ranger District.
Oct. 1984 Energy Fuels Nuclear submitted a proposed Plan of Operations to mine uranium from the Canyon claims near Red Butte.
Apr 26, ‘86 Catastrophic nuclear accident occurs at Chernobyl nuclear power plant in what was then known as the U.S.S.R. As a result global uranium prices plummet.
1986 The final Environmental Impact Statement on Canyon Mine and Record of Decision were issued on September 29, 1986, approving the Plan of Operations. Appeals of this decision were made to the Southwestern Regional Forester and the Chief of the Forest Service, who both affirmed the Forest Supervisor’s decision.
The Havasupai Tribe and others then sued over this decision in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona. The District Court ruled for the U.S. Forest Service on all counts.
Sept. 1986 Canyon mine begins constructing a headframe and limited infrastructure.
1989 A group known as EMETIC or the ‘Arizona 5’ were charged for eco-actions including cutting power-lines to the Canyon Uranium Mine.
1991 U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirms District Court decision against Havasupai.
1992 Canyon Mine work halted and placed in “standby” after uranium prices crashed.
1997 Energy Fuels Nuclear sells Canyon Mine to Denison Mines.
2004 – 2007 The spot price of uranium more than quadrupled, reaching more than $140. The spike in uranium price was largely credited to increased demand from nuclear power plants around the world. This prompted renewed interest in uranium mining and thousands of new mining claims were located.
2005 The Diné (Navajo) Nation banned uranium mining and processing within its borders due to uranium’s harmful legacy of severe health impacts and poisoning of the environment.
2007 Renewed uranium exploration around the Grand Canyon prompts thousands of new claims.
July 2009 Havasupai Nation hosts gathering at Red Butte. More than 400 gather to oppose Canyon Mine.
2008 Ban on new uranium mining claims around the Grand Canyon urged by Indigenous Nations, Arizona’s then-governor Janet Napolitano, local governments, and conservation groups. The Congressional Committee on Natural Resources passes a resolution enacting emergency protections requiring the interior secretary to immediately withdraw the one million acres for three years.
July 2009 Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced a two-year ban on new mining on federal land in an area of approximately 1 million acres surrounding Grand Canyon National Park.
Feb, 2010 USGS finds radioactive dust and contaminated water near Grand Canyon uranium mines. 15 springs and five wells in Grand Canyon watersheds have dissolved uranium concentrations that exceed drinking water standards.
2010 The USGS found radioactive dust several hundred feet from the Kanab North Mine Site at more than 10 times the background concentration for uranium.
U.S. Department of the Interior grants Traditional Cultural Property status to the Red Butte area which includes Canyon Mine.
2011 Obama Administration announced plans for a mineral withdrawal (mining ban) on those one million acres around the Grand Canyon.
Oct. 12, ’11 Republican lawmakers led by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) proposed legislation today to open the 1 million acres of public lands to new uranium mining. The bill would overturn the existing moratorium on new mining and mining claims and block Salazar’s proposal to extend those protections for the next 20 years.
Jan. 2012 Department of Interior approves the 20-year ban on new mining around the Grand Canyon. However, the withdrawal does not apply to existing mines, even those located within a few miles of the North and South Rims. Mining interest groups later file suit to overturn the ban.
Feb. 27, ‘12 In an attempt to open public lands around Grand Canyon National Park to dangerous new uranium mining, the National Mining Association filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the Interior Department’s recent enactment of the uranium ban. In response, the Center, Grand Canyon Trust and Sierra Club — represented by Earthjustice and Western Mining Action Project — announced plans to intervene on the side of the government to defend the Grand Canyon.
April 2012 Energy Fuels Inc (EFI). acquires Canyon Mine from Denison Mines. EFI also acquired all of Denison’s mining assets and operations located in the US which included White Mesa Mill, Colorado Plateau mines, Daneros uranium mine in the White Canyon district of southeastern Utah, Arizona Strip properties, Henry Mountains uranium complex in southern Utah.
June 2012 Kaibab National Forest completed a review of documents and operation plans related to the Canyon Mine and determined “no modification or amendment to the existing Plan of Operations was necessary; that no correction, supplementation, or revision to the environmental document was required; and that operations at Canyon Mine could continue as a result of no further federal authorization being required.”
2013 This summer a group known as the Momma Bear’s Brigade established a protest camp near the Grand Canyon to stop the Canyon Mine.
Aug. 30, ‘13 EFI acquires Strathmore Minerals Corp. Strathmore held a 60% interest in the proposed Roca Honda uranium mine located near Grants, New Mexico. The Roca Honda mine has long been controversial as it threatens to desecrate Mt. Taylor, a mountain held holy by Diné (Navajo), Acoma, Hopi, and other Indigenous Nations.
April 2013 EFI re-initiates work at Canyon Mine, sinking the shaft and preparing the facility for uranium ore excavation.
2013 Havasupai along with Grand Canyon Trust, Center for Biological Diversity and Sierra Club, filed a lawsuit against the US Forest Service, Havasupai Tribe v. U.S Forest Service, to prevent the resumption of uranium mining at Canyon Mine. Havasupai contend that the Forest Service granted permission for EFI to resume mining operations without consideration of new developments and technology, violating its legal obligations under the National Historic Preservation Act to consult with the tribe concerning the irreparable harm the mine will have on the Red Butte sacred site and implementing measures to prevent damage.
Jan. 9, 2013 The National Mining Association (NMA) files suit challenging the enactment of the Grand Canyon mining ban. A total of five uranium-industry lawsuits — one seeking upwards of $120 million from the US are filed.
Mar. 20, ‘13 U.S. District Judge David Campbell denied the uranium industry’s motion to overturn the Obama administration’s ban on new uranium mining.
Sept. 2014 US District Court in AZ upholds uranium withdrawal.
Apr 7, 2015 Federal District Court rules against Havasupai and environmental groups allowing EFI to start re-start drilling at Canyon Mine.
Apr 14, ‘15 Havasupai Tribe filed a Notice of Appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, and on April 27, 2015, the Grand Canyon Trust, Center for Biological Diversity and Sierra Club followed suit.
Dec. 15, ‘16 Havasupai case heard at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
The court has not yet issued an opinion.
March, 2017 EFI announces that ore production could begin in June 2017, at the earliest.
National Parks and Rural Development: Practice And Policy In The United States
HAVASUPAI TRADITIONAL AND HISTORICAL USE
OF THE GRAND CANYON VILLAGE AREA – Ernest Atencio
Canyon Mine FEIS – https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5346657.pdf