21 July 2008

Resources and wilderness can go together

There is something that has always struck me a bit wrong-headed about some views, and one of them is the attractiveness of wilderness areas and mankind's need to develop natural resources. Humanity can, indeed, extract resources in a way that will not damage the natural beauty of an area. Some people don't understand that.

One of them is running for President, this from The Campaign Spot at NRO on 16 JAN 2008:

Mike Goldfarb: Some people are perplexed by your rhetoric on global warming. Is this one of those ‘no surrender’ issues, or is there room for discussion?

McCain: There’s always room for discussion. But I don’t know how any conservative can not support cap and trade. We did it with acid rain. The Europeans are putting it into effect. It’s a capitalist process that encourages green technologies. If we’re wrong, all we’ve done is adopt green technologies, in an effort to give our kids a greener planet.

As far as ANWR is concerned, I don’t want to drill in the Grand Canyon, and I don’t want to drill in the Everglades. This is one of the most pristine and beautiful parts of the world.

Now it is time to take a look at some natural resource development that went on in the Grand Canyon, and for that I will rely on a couple of snaps taken from Google Earth. First the overview of the Grand Canyon:

GC Overview

The green outline shows the park, itself. I have highlighted the resource development that went on until 1972 in the park.

Can't see it? I did outline it...


Here it is, right by the Visitor's Center!

Lost Orphan Coppermine

In red outline, the Lost Orphan Coppermine.

Not so important, huh? I mean it was *just* a copper mine after all... or was it?

It turns out that there was a different activity going on there, one which is still effecting the place. This taken from Mike Mahanay's site on The Old Orphan Mine of the Grand Canyon:

Visitor Access: Orphan Mine is located on the south rim of the Grand Canyon between Maracopa Point and Powell Memorial. The immediate vicinity is visited by at least 1.5 million people each year. Visitors walking along the canyon rim must detour around the site. The large headframe and other structures on the site attract curious visitors. The chain-link fence around the mine workings is often in a state of disrepair, and is only partly effective where it joins the rim.


Mine History and Current Ownership:

The history of the Orphan Lode Mine began when John Hogan and Henry Ward filed a claim in 1893 on their workings of a copper outcrop in the Coconino Sandstone about 1100 feet below present day Powell Point and Maricopa Point several miles west of Grand Canyon Village. Others say the Orphan Mine was first worked for copper in 1906.

Uranium was discovered in the ore and mined from 1953 to 1972. Uranium content in ore shipments was as much as 4.9 percent and approached 80 percent in individual samples. The patented land was acquired by National Park Systems in 1963, but extraction rights were retained by the operator until August 1988.

Why there you go, a uranium mine right in the Grand Canyon where anyone is forced to walk around it because it is still radioactive:

Hazards: The main shaft is 1,500 feet deep and is accessible via a ladderway exposed just below the canyon rim. The remaining structures, foundations, and trash also present physical hazards. Radiation levels are elevated throughout the compound and in a visitor-use area to the west, with combined beta and gamma sometimes exceeding 3.0 mR/hour.

Now 3 milliroentgen per hour which is about 3 millirem per hour (according to Steve Quayle's Radiation Measurement Converstion Tables, which states the Roentgen=Rad=Rem equivalence) and from Wikipedia we find that your average annual does is 200 millirem per year. From the Radiation Effects Research Foundation glossary, we can see that what you get may be a bit higher ( Wikipedia pegs it at 2 mSv while they go to 3.6 mSv) from natural background sources. That chest X-Ray gets you about 0.05 mSv, while the hourly output at the mine is 0.03 mSv/hr. Thus the environs of the old mine puts out your annual dose of normal radiation in 70 hours and a chest X-Ray about every 16 hours, give or take on both, though the higher value for US exposure puts it up in the 130 hour range. Call it 3 to 5 days.

Stops tourism in the Grand Canyon this radiation danger, does it?

Disfigures the Canyon beyond all redemption?

Did you even *know* about it?

Now I'll take the shaded relief map from the ANWR site at the Fish and Wildlife Service and overlay it on GE:

ANWR overlay

Ok, got that? The yellow outline is all of ANWR. Now I will take you to the proposed drilling site:

ANWR drilling site

Yes, the 2,000 acres around that area just on the edge of ANWR is the area of all the fuss. There are a few BP, Exxon and other platforms right next to it.

Now I will pull out, and I've increased the size of the text so it should appear visibly, even though the sitemark is no longer visible:

ANWR drilling site overview

Do you see that? No?

Like the uranium mine in the Grand Canyon?

From the anwr.org site on its visitor traffic:


The answer?: Not many. For most of the year, ANWR is unbearably cold and dark. For several weeks, the sun doesn't even rise and leaves the windswept landscape a very inhospitable environment. Only a few hundred people visit ANWR each year.

Understanding the visitor�s of ANWR � How many people actually visit this 'national treasure', �America�s Serengeti'?

In 1997, between 1,000-1,500 recreational visitors actually spent time within the 19 million acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), a region the size of the State of South Carolina.

"Currently, exact number of recreationists are unknown. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conservatively estimates the total at 1,000 to 1,500."

Tom Edgerton, Arctic NWR, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Less than half of the total ANWR visitors, approximately, 500 � 750 visited the Coastal Plain area for such activities as rafting, hiking and hunting.

Most visits occurred between mid-June and late August.

Visitors to ANWR were down by half in 1997 compared to the highs of 1990.

Recreational groups average eight people and spend an average of 10 days in the refuge.

The Sierra Club conducts 6-10 activists group training trips every year to ANWR. These tours make up a major portion of the commercial visitors to the Coastal Plain. Costing $3,000 to $4,000 per person.

In 1997, 46% of ANWR commercial clients visited the Coastal Plain.

ANWR (entire including the Coastal Plain figures below)

Hunters 215 clients

Guided 78

Private 137

Hikers � guided (approximately) 92 clients

Rafters � guided (approximately) 160 clients

Coastal Plain (only) approximately

Hikers � guided 56 clients

Rafters - guided 60 clients

Source: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife, Tom Edgerton, Arctic NWR; October 28, 2000

Hmmmm.... Sierra Club brings in 24-80 folks on average. Probably that 'guided' part. Don't want to spoil that natural beauty by hunting or hauling rafts in there.... why at worse they are only 8% of the users of the place.

For the 10 billion or so barrels of oil, in a tiny flyspeck next to an already developed oil section of the coast, to give 1,000 to 1,500 folks the joy of the entire area of which this is an area they wouldn't want to visit as it is desolate and you just might see an oil pumping station on the horizon... for *this* we are doing nothing?

You have a better chance of finding the Orphan Coppermine and snoozing too long and winding up with sunburn from the sun than you do of ruining the 'pristine beauty' of the muskeg next to the already developed north slope areas by developing oil reserves in the far north of Alaska. And since I have never heard of the Great Moose Migration having to go miles around the area and endangering the major fauna of the area, perhaps, just perhaps, the worries are a bit overblown.

And with the way reclaiming of natural surroundings is going these days, any 'impact' in Alaska will disappear long before the radiation in the Grand Canyon does.

You did know that there was uranium in the rocks in the Grand Canyon, especially stuff like the granite underlying it, right?

Just checking!

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