Mohave County officials will soon step up lobbying efforts to convince the Trump administration to lift a 20-year ban on uranium mining on the Arizona strip.
The ban, imposed in 2012, carved out more than 1 million acres north of Lake Havasu City from mining operations. Mohave County Supervisor Buster Johnson would like to see the moratorium lifted.
“With enough pressure, we are hoping that the Trump administration will realize the economic strain imposed on Mohave County and other counties in Arizona because of the Obama administration’s 2012 withdrawal,” Johnson said.
Studies have shown that the Arizona Strip contains some of the nation’s highest grade domestic uranium deposits, a resource that cannot be allowed to remain untapped, Johnson said.
“This ban included both public lands and national forest system lands,” he added. “Uranium mining would have brought in nearly $29 billion to our local economy over a 42-year period. This ban took away much needed growth and jobs from our area.”
A report done by the American Clean Energy Resource Trust found that during the 1980s, seven mines in the northern Arizona produced 19 million pounds of uranium, the energy equivalent of approximately 676 million barrels of oil.
During the past 20 years, the U.S. has produced on average about 4 million pounds of uranium per year. But domestic consumption from nuclear power plants averages between 50 and 60 million pounds per year.
“I think that mining is probably the quickest way to bounce back economically,” Johnson said. “This industry is something you can use to immediately put people back to work.”
Curtis Moore, Energy Fuels vice president of marketing supports Johnson’s direction.
“We thought the ban was too broad,” Moore said. “There really was no legal justification in putting the withdrawal in place. Right now this is preventing the exploration and development of the uranium deposits in this area, and although these are fairly small mines on average they would probably employ 60 to 100 people. These are good paying jobs with benefits.”
Registered as a Canadian company and headquartered in Colorado, Energy Fuels Inc., is quickly becoming a leading producer of uranium in the United States. Although the company does not have any mines currently producing in the Grand Canyon state, an exploratory site eight miles south of Tusayan is under development.
In the U.S., uranium fueled nuclear power plants generate approximately 20 percent of the nation’s electricity. There are currently about 100 nuclear power plants in the U.S. and more than 400 worldwide.