Assessing Impacts to Ecosystems from Uranium Mining in the Grand Canyon Region

Research Project: 

RB00CN7.19

Project Manager: 

Ernest Valdez
FORT Research wildlife biologist, Ernie Valdez, removes Myotis volans (long-legged bat) from a mist-net over a water detention pond, at a developing mine site near the Grand Canyon. Photo by Keith Grabner.
FORT Research wildlife biologist, Ernie Valdez, removes Myotis volans (long-legged bat) from a mist-net over a water detention pond, at a developing mine site near the Grand Canyon. Photo by Keith Grabner.

The use of uranium is an alternative energy source to petroleum products and some of the United States’ highest quality ore is located on the Colorado Plateau. However, some regions where suitable mining efforts are conducted include areas that are near important environmental resources such as National Parks that provide viewscapes and habitat for wildlife. In 2012, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar withdrew approximately one million acres of federal land near the Grand Canyon from additional uranium mining development until the year 2032. The decision will allow time to assess potential effects of uranium mining. Research is ongoing to reduce the uncertainties of mining impacts and effects on water quality and quantity, and better understand the potential toxicological and radiological effects of mining on wildlife, as well as to evaluate the potential impacts on cultural and tribal resources. Scientists at USGS-FORT are investigating the types, frequencies of occurrences, habitat use, and overall health levels of insects and bats at Canyon Mine and adjacent areas near the Grand Canyon, prior to mining. Results from these studies would help inform the Secretary’s decision to continue, modify, or end the mining withdrawal in 2032. 

Complete publication.

USGS Uranium Mining Feature