The Grand Canyon is one of the most popular, beautiful and iconic natural attractions in the world, a major economic driver for our state, and a point of pride for every Arizonan. Every year 5 million people flock to the Canyon from all over the United States and the world to bask in awe of the crown jewel of Arizona’s natural heritage. These tourists eat at restaurants, stay in hotels, purchase fuel, rent equipment and spend between $600 and $700 million every year. Tourism is responsible for more than 260,000 jobs in Arizona and the Grand Canyon alone supports 12,000 of those jobs. The Canyon’s economic impact extends beyond those 12,000 jobs however. For many tourists the Canyon may be the primary reason for their visit but they stay in Arizona for additional days or weeks to visit one or more of Arizona’s other treasures, spending more money and creating and sustaining even more jobs.
Mining, on the other hand, is by definition an unsustainable economic activity and the only jobs created after the ore runs out (or the price of uranium goes down) are the ones to clean up the mess created by the mine in the first place. Mining is often seen as a major employer in Arizona but according to the Arizona Department of Administration, mining is the second smallest employment sector in the state (only “Furniture and Home Furnishings” is a smaller sector). This report shows that mining employs fewer than one half of one percent of Arizona’s workforce. Job creation estimates for the proposed mines vary depending on who you ask, but even the rosiest projections put the job creation at fewer than 500 jobs for 20 years, other estimates put the number between 100 and 200 jobs. While Arizona needs every job we can get, we can’t afford to risk the 12,000 jobs created by Grand Canyon tourism and we certainly can’t risk any of the 260,000 jobs created by tourism statewide for a couple hundred of relatively short term jobs.
And that’s just the jobs argument. Uranium mining in or near the Grand Canyon also puts the drinking water for 25 million people in Arizona, Nevada and California at risk of contamination, raises the risk of billions of tax-payer dollars being spent on cleanup and mars the pristine beauty of our nation’s greatest natural treasure.
The Grand Canyon is simply too valuable as a natural wonder of the world, as a job creator and as the symbol of our great state to risk permanently harming its’ beauty on such a dangerous and unsustainable venture.