The Havasupai Tribal Council has sent a formal letter of opposition to the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) re-iterating its opposition to the Pinyon Plain Mine and requesting improved consultation and coordination with Arizona Department of Environmental Quality to recognize the value of tribal traditional knowledge, as well as basic data-sharing on the mine’s operations and contaminants.
The letter, that was emailed to the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality director on Friday, May 27, 2022, documents consistent failures by Arizona Department of Environmental Quality to consider the best science available and the well-founded concerns of Indigenous people who bear the environmental burdens of the Pinyon Plain Mine.
According to Tribal Councilman Stuart L.T. Chavez, the Havasupai Tribe has fought for decades to protect its water and traditional cultural lands from the harmful effects of uranium mining. “Contamination from the Pinyon Plain Mine (formerly Canyon Mine) has already caused millions of gallons of precious water to be rendered unusable and wasted,” said Chavez.
“Every day the Pinyon Plain Mine threatens contamination of Havasu Creek, the sole water source that provides life to Supai Village. Our tribal homeland within the Grand Canyon and our ancestral lands are threatened as the Pinyon Plain Mine sits within the Havasupai Tribe’s Traditional Cultural Property (TCP), known as Red Butte — Wii Qdwiisa, the lungs of Mother Earth. Without this precious resource, our tribe and homeland will be destroyed,” said Vice-Chairman of the Havasupai Tribe - Edmond Tilousi.
Arizona’s Pinyon Plain Mine, less than 10 miles from the Grand Canyon’s southern rim, poses unacceptable risks to the drinking water, natural wonders, and sacred cultural sites of the Havasupai Tribe. The mine damages a Havasupai gathering point (Mat Taav Tijundva) and threatens to contaminate Havasu Creek, the sole source of water for Supai Village, with cancer-causing radiation.
In 2012, the Department of the Interior announced a 20-year moratorium on new uranium and other hard-rock mining on one million acres of federal land to protect the iconic Grand Canyon and the Colorado River. Pinyon Plain Mine was grandfathered in. However, by issuing the aquifer protection permit, Arizona Department of Environmental Quality continues to sacrifice Indigenous people’s water, health, and sacred sites to enrich foreign mining companies, all without tribal consent.
“As the Havasupai Tribe, we have stood strong continuing the protection of the natural resources in and around the Grand Canyon region. The aquifers are too important to continue to be contaminated and sacrificed by Energy Fuels and Arizona Department of Environmental Quality,” said Vice-Chairman Tilousi.
Ukraine’s invasion by Russia, which supplies the United States with uranium, has prompted a renewed interest in domestic mining and has driven the price of uranium up by more than 30 percent.
“Many generations of Havasupai Tribal leaders and elders have fought to protect our homeland. With heart, blood, sweat, tears, and spiritual energy, WE have fought to protect our traditional cultural sites, traditional landmarks, and the traditional significance of the Havasupai's connection to land, water, air, earth, and spirit. We will never stand idle as our land and water are destroyed because of greed,” said Chavez.