While concerns surrounding uranium mining near the Grand Canyon have garnered national media attention, one producer is petitioning the government saying it is essential to avoid a national security threat.
Mark Chalmers, chief executive officer of Energy Fuels Resources, is looking to produce uranium on this contested land near the Grand Canyon. The company is petitioning the U.S. government that it buy its uranium exclusively from domestic sources, and set a quote guaranteeing U.S. companies 25% of the market.
U.S. Federal officials are presently deliberating on mining laws that could affect operations around the national park.
"Our petition is section 232. We filed it under the Trade Act of 1962, which says if there is a commodity or material that could have national security implications, the president of the United States has executive authority to step in on trade in that regard," Chalmers said in an exclusive interview with Kitco News.
"We consume one third of the world's uranium, producing less than 1% -- that should shock people. Because a big chunk of that material that's being imported to the United States is coming from Russia, its allies, and China.
We think to have a 99% dependency on imports for the largest consumer of uranium in the world just doesn't make any sense and is truly a national security issue," Chalmers said.
But conservation advocates are up-in-arms over how this could potentially destroy the Grand Canyon's National Park. "Uranium mining in the Grand Canyon region is an unnecessary threat to our tourism-based economies and the people who depend on the Grand Canyon," Amber Reimondo with the Grand Canyon Trust recently told a House Subcommittee.
"We're looking at wanting to re-establish uranium mining activities across mainly the western United States. And certainly we're not planning to do anything inside a National Park," Chalmers said.
Uranium prices have been depressed for a number of years and currently sit around the spot price of $25 dollars per pound.
"The industry needs $55 a pound or greater to actually mine uranium with any type of margin," Chalmers said.
Should the petition not move forward, Chalmers said it could become a potential killer of the United States' uranium industry.
"Since Fukushima in 2011, it's been very difficult for all of us to survive. So we do need support. The industry is challenged. We're producing at such low levels that have not been seen since the 1940s. [W]e're the largest consumer in the world. So I don't think that the United States of America and the people are ready to throw the car keys at mainly the former Soviet Union and China," Chalmers said.