Pinyon Plain Mine (formerly Canyon Mine) | FAQs (Updates in Progress)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) - Last updated on June 16, 2021

For current information | View Individual Aquifer Protection Program Permit Summary & Response to Public Comments >

How are uranium mines regulated?

Uranium mines are regulated by several state and federal agencies. Federal and state environmental regulations applicable to a mining facility may include permits and rules for groundwater and surface water protection, stormwater controls, air quality, disposal of materials and more. In some cases, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) delegates this regulatory responsibility to ADEQ and in others EPA maintains oversight. In addition, there may be state rules that involve other agencies or commissions. Additional regulatory agencies include the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) or Bureau of Land Management (BLM) if the mine is on federal land. For active uranium mines, the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has oversight over worker health and safety.

Canyon Mine operates in accordance with a USFS Record of Decision (ROD) and detailed Plan of Operations (the USFS-approved facility Plan of Operations) approved by USFS, which were prepared after USFS completed its Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

ADEQ implements and enforces laws and regulations related to groundwater protection, air quality and stormwater control at Canyon Mine through Aquifer Protection Permits, a Clean Water Act permit and an air quality permit. The facility also has an approval order from the EPA relating to the management of radon emissions from the mine, and worker health and safety is regulated by MSHA.

How many ADEQ permits does Canyon Mine have?

The facility has five environmental protection permits issued by ADEQ:

  • First, ADEQ issued a discharge authorization for a General Aquifer Protection Permit (APP) that regulates a lined impoundment that contains and manages water pumped from the mine shaft and stormwater runoff from the property.
  • Two General APPs also were issued for two rock storage piles.
  • A Class II air quality permit requires dust control measures at the property.
  • Finally, stormwater runoff at the facility is actively managed under a Clean Water Act general stormwater permit.

What is a General APP? Is that different from an Individual APP?

As authorized by statute, General APPs are available for regulation of defined classes of facilities and sources that have similar emissions and discharges. General APPs have pre-determined requirements that must be met by an applicant, for example design requirements (e.g., liner thickness), engineering controls and reporting requirements. As long as an applicant demonstrates that it will be able to conduct its proposed activities to meet the requirements, it can operate under any General APP for which it is eligible. General APPs do not require a public comment period and must be renewed on a periodic basis.

Individual APPs are issued on a case-by-case basis and permit requirements are tailored to the specific operations at the facility. Individual APPs typically are used for regulation of large or complex facilities and sources or where no General APP is available. Individual APPs require a public comment period and potentially a public hearing and are valid for the operational life of the facility and any period during which the facility is subject to a post-closure plan. For any major changes to an Individual APP, such as adding or expanding facilities, ADEQ will seek and consider stakeholder and public input through public notice and opportunity for comment and provide responses to all public comments received.

What is the renewal schedule for the ADEQ permits issued to Canyon Mine?

The General APP for the lined impoundment is on a five-year renewal schedule. An application to renew this permit was submitted to ADEQ in July 2019. Two General APPs for the two rock storage piles were renewed in 2018 and are on a seven-year renewal schedule. Renewal schedules can be viewed in Arizona Administrative Code (A.A.C.) R18-9-A303 | View >

One Class II air quality permit regulates dust control measures at the facility, is on a five-year renewal schedule, and was renewed in 2016. This Class II permit requires a 30-day public comment period and an opportunity for interested parties to request a hearing prior to an ADEQ decision on a renewal application.

The Clean Water Act general stormwater permit requires renewal every five years and was last renewed in 2020.