This week, U.S. President Joe Biden designated the Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni–Ancestral Footprints of the Grand Canyon National Monument in northern Arizona, withdrawing 917,618 acres of federal lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) from development. This designation is Biden’s fifth new monument and will block access to new mining on some of the nation’s richest uranium deposits.

“Although we believe the use of the Antiquities Act of 1906 to establish a national monument represents an overreach of executive power, we are pleased that the designation appears to respect valid, existing mining rights,” said Mark Chalmers, president and CEO for Energy Fuels.

Energy Fuels operates the Pinyon Plain mine, which is the only uranium mine currently operating within the boundaries of the new monument — more than 10 miles (and down-gradient) from the Grand Canyon and well outside the National Park. The mine, which is fully permitted and substantially developed, sits on a 14.7-acre site.

The uranium deposits of northern Arizona are known as breccia pipes, which are very high-grade orebodies, situated relatively close to the surface. The pipes require very little land area to mine. They are among the lowest-cost and lowest-environmental impact sources of uranium in the United States, making them national clean energy assets, Chalmers said. “Due to the small mining footprint and low impact on the land, the mine site would be restored to its former state once mining is complete, and there will be virtually no evidence that a mine ever existed,” Chalmers said.

“We acknowledge the importance of this land to many—from those who live in surrounding communities to visitors who travel here to enjoy its beauty,” Chalmers said. “We take our stewardship seriously and employ practices that protect the health and safety of our employees, the community and the environment.”

About half of the uranium used by U.S. utilities for nuclear power is currently imported from Russia and its allies, who are not aligned with the U.S. and its values. The U.S. has halted imports of Russian oil, gas, and coal, but it continues to import cheap Russian uranium for nuclear fuel, which translates to about $1 billion annually.

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