The proposed reopening of a uranium mine near the Grand Canyon is on hold in the face of falling uranium prices and ongoing litigation.
The old mine, six miles south of the South Rim entrance to the canyon, is one of the "zombie mines" that the federal government has given energy producers approval to reopen despite the Obama administration banning new hard-rock mining in areas over 1 million acres, since the rights of the mine date back to when it was closed two decades ago.
Before it was stalled, the mining company, Energy Fuels Resources Inc., planned to extract 83,000 tons of ore to produce 1.6 million pounds of processed uranium in 2015, reports The Colorado Springs Gazette.
Grand Canyon officials have warned that uranium mining could contaminate scarce water resources in the area. To protect the land, Havasupai Indian tribe and a coalition of environmental groups sued the U.S. Forest Service in 2012 over what they argue is the anachronistic use of a 1986 environmental review.
Prices for uranium have also dropped to the among the lowest in the last five years, at mid-$30 per pound, resulting in Energy Fuels Resources Inc. putting the re-opening on hold until December 2014 or whenever the federal case is decided.