Children of Havasupai write letters to White House opposing new uranium mine

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The Havasupai tribe, resting at the bottom of the southwest corner of the Grand Canyon, are asking the people in D.C. to halt the construction of the new uranium mine six miles south of the canyon.

As a part of Elemental: Covering Sustainability, a multimedia project including Cronkite News, Arizona PBS, KJZZ, KPCC, Rocky Mountain PBS and PBS SoCal, reporters visited the tribe to learn about their concerns regarding the mine.

Native advocates and leaders ran over 20 miles in and out of the Village of Supai to collect the letters written by children and deliver them to lawmakers in D.C. who have a say in stopping this mine from happening. Among the runners was Democrat 7th District Rep. Eric Descheenie.

“These children have so much more life to live than one one of us,” Descheenie says. “It’s really their voice that needs to be heard. We can’t take them and put them on an airplane and send them to the east coast so we’re doing the next best thing as their representatives and leaders and we’re going to deliver their voices to D.C.”

Related: Hands, heart and feet: Havasupai children write letters urging Trump to ban canyon mining

The Obama administration passed a 20 year ban on new uranium mining in 2012. The Trump administration is now considering lifting that ban so companies like Energy Fuels can accomplish their goal of collecting more than two million pounds of uranium from the canyon.

Curtis Moore, vice president of marketing for Energy Fuels, says the uranium they would be able to extract from the mine would supply all of the electricity for Arizona for a year.

“If I really thought there was any chance that we were going to harm any of that I simply couldn’t work with this company,” Moore says.

Vice President of the Navajo Nation Jonathan Nez says he has been helping teach the children that they have a strong voice that they can use to protect their land like their ancestors before them did. About 25 letters were delivered to D.C. in February.

Descheenie says there was a meaningful discussion that took place at the White House. He says they were able to educated some of the lawmakers on the people who live at the bottom of the canyon and how their lives would be affected if this mine were to be used.

“We’re essentially asking… the administration to keep that moratorium [from the Obama administration] intact,” Descheenie says. “Twenty years after [2012] we can have a discussion on where things are at. At a minimum, we need to keep that intact.”

Rep. Eric Descheenie: (D) 7th District
Curtis Moore: Vice President of Marketing, Energy Fuels
Jonathan Nez: Vice President, Navajo Nation
Benjamin Jones: Supai Resident

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