Pinyon Plain Mine (formerly Canyon Uranium Mine)

The head-frame of Canyon Uranium Mine on the Tusayan Ranger District

The Pinyon Plain Mine (formerly Canyon Uranium Mine), is a uranium mine located about 6 miles southeast of the Town of Tusayan on the Tusayan Ranger District of the Kaibab National Forest and operated by Energy Fuels Resources. The entire mine site is about 17 acres in size. In early 2024, Energy Fuels notified the Kaibab National Forest that uranium ore production at the mine had begun.

Current Status

On January 8, 2024, Energy Fuels Resources notified the Kaibab National Forest that uranium ore has been removed from Pinyon Plain Mine and placed on the ore pad. This is the first time that ore has been removed from the mine. This follows notices that Energy Fuels filed with the Environmental Protection Agency on November 3, 2023, and December 14, 2023, pursuant to EPA's Approval to Construct/Modify the mine, notifying EPA of the anticipated date of initial startup of ventilation and actual date of startup, respectively. Energy Fuels cites the current high price of uranium as the reason for beginning ore production.

The mine is within the Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni – Ancestral Footprints of the Grand Canyon National Monument. This monument was designated by Presidential Proclamation on August 8, 2023. Although this designation withdrawals the area from future mineral entry, Pinyon Plain Mine is not affected because it is a valid existing right.

In December 2022, Energy Fuels began preparatory operations – removing waste rock and other activities associated with connecting the existing mine shaft to the ore body, construction of a lined ore pad, and construction of a ventilation shaft – in anticipation of ore removal. In 2018, Energy Fuels completed sinking the mine shaft, which extends to approximately 1,470 feet.

Pinyon Plain Mine Haul RoutesOre will be hauled by truck to the White Mesa Mill near Blanding, Utah. Energy Fuels is authorized to use two haul routes. Long term, the company plans to use a route that consists of State Route 64 and US Highways 180, 89, 160, and 191 to access the mill. However, a portion of this route passes through State and private lands that require additional permissions. Until Energy Fuels obtains these permissions, the haul route will follow State Route 64 further south to I-40 at Williams then to US 89 through Flagstaff. Both routes will pass through the Navajo Nation.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has drilled a monitoring well just outside the fenced area of Plain Mine. The monitoring well is intended to provide further information concerning perched aquifers in the Pinyon Plain Mine area and also for perched aquifers in general to inform monitoring of the Northern Arizona Withdrawal. USGS is also conducting regular monitoring of soils, water, plants, and wildlife in and around the mine. More information about USGS’s monitoring and research efforts can be found on their website, and monitoring data are available for 2017, 201820192020, and 2021.

On June 25, 2012, the Forest Service entered into consultation with tribes under 36 CFR 800.13 (b)(3), the Post-Review Discovery Process, and concluded that consultation in December 2015. The Forest Service remains committed to working with tribes, the Arizona State Historic Preservation Office and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation throughout the life of the mine in keeping with the 1986 Record of Decision and the existing Plan of Operations for the mine.    

Uranium

There are approximately 1,629,000 lbs. of U3O8 at Pinyon Plain Mine, contained in 82,800 tons of inferred resource at an average grade of 0.98% U3O8. In northern Arizona, uranium deposits are located in breccia pipes, which are vertical cylindrical bodies of broken sedimentary rock. Over the past half century, there has been intense interest in these uranium resources. Uranium is managed as a locatable mineral on federal land including National Forests. Locatable mineral policy and additional information is available on Forest Service Minerals and Geology Management website.

Mineral Withdrawal and Valid Existing Rights

In addition to being within the Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni – Ancestral Footprints of the Grand Canyon National Monument, Pinyon Plain Mine is located within the area segregated in 2009 and then ultimately withdrawn for 20 years in the Northern Arizona Withdrawal process by the Secretary of Interior on January 9, 2012. Mining claims at the Pinyon Plain Mine were evaluated by Forest Service mineral examiners with regard to valid existing rights under the 1872 Mining Law. This Mineral Validity Examination, completed on April 18, 2012, confirmed the existence of valid existing rights. 

Pinyon Plain Mine‚Äč Review

Also in 2012, the Kaibab National Forest completed a review of the Pinyon Plain Mine Plan of Operations and all other associated approval documentation and determined that no modification or amendment to the existing Plan of Operations was necessary; that no correction, supplementation, or revision to the environmental document was required; and that operations at Pinyon Plain Mine could continue as a result of no further federal authorization being required. That review was completed June 25, 2012.  

Environmental Impact Statement and Plan of Operations

In October 1984, Energy Fuels Nuclear submitted a proposed Plan of Operations to mine uranium from the Pinyon Plain Mine claims. The Forest Service completed an Environmental Impact Statement to evaluate the plan, including significant comment and input from federally recognized tribes. The final Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision were issued on September 29, 1986, approving the Plan of Operations with modifications. Mine site surface preparation activities began in late 1986. Appeals of this decision were made to the Southwestern Regional Forester and the Chief of the Forest Service, who both affirmed the Forest Supervisor’s decision. The Havasupai Tribe and others then sued over this decision in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona. The District Court ruled for the Forest Service on all counts, and a subsequent appeal was filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which affirmed the District Court on August 16, 1991. 

Baseline Radiological Monitoring

The Environmental Impact Statement requires baseline radiological monitoring to be conducted one year prior to ore production at Pinyon Plain Mine. Initial data collection was completed in the 1980s. Supplemental data were collected 2016-2017, and again beginning in 2023. The current monitoring will be completed in 2024.

Additional Links

To contact the Forest Service about Pinyon Plain Mine, you can call (928) 224-9365 and leave a message with the information you’re seeking and how to reach you.