Environmental Groups Win Fight to Keep Uranium Mining Out of the Grand Canyon

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After years of fighting to keep uranium mines from surrounding the Grand Canyon, environmental groups won the fight when Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar signed the Record of Decision. For the next 20 years, there will be no new uranium mines on more than one million acres of federal land.

We have been entrusted to care for and protect our previous environmental and cultural resources, and we have chosen a responsible path that makes sense for this and future generations. – Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior

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Grand Canyon at sunset.

From ENS-Newswire.com:

The affected lands are situated in three areas, all in the vicinity of the Grand Canyon or Grand Canyon National Park, in Mohave and Coconino counties of northern Arizona. Approximately 3,200 mining claims are currently located in the withdrawal areas.

The withdrawal does not prohibit previously approved uranium mining, new projects that could be approved on claims and sites with valid existing rights.

​The withdrawn area includes 355,874 acres of U.S. Forest Service land on the Kaibab National Forest; 626,678 acres of Bureau of Land Management lands; and 23,993 acres where surface lands are held by other owners while subsurface minerals are owned by the federal government.

Praising the decision, Christy Goldfuss, director of the Public Lands Project, said, "This is the best call to protect a national treasure. After taking a time-out to study the impacts of excessive uranium mining on the Grand Canyon, the administration came to a fact-based conclusion. The real winners of this decision are American families that will continue to enjoy one of our country's most beautiful locations, the outdoor recreation industry that supports the conservation economy, and the millions of people that drink the water that flows through the region."

Environmental Groups Celebrate Victory

After signing the Record of Decision, those who have been fighting for years had reason to celebrate. The area surrounding the Grand Canyon is full of cultural and environmental significance. It's been two long years since evaluations that led to this decision began.

Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar signs the Record of Decision. Map of the withdrawal area.
Image by Jared King, courtesy of Navajo Nation Washington Office
Map courtesy of Department of the Interior.

This is a big win for all of us who care about protecting the Grand Canyon's natural splendor. Extending the current moratorium on new uranium mining claims will protect tourism related jobs, drinking water for millions downstream, and critical wildlife habitats. – Gene Karpinski said on behalf of the League of Conservation Voters

Conclusion: This doesn't stop all future uranium mines.

Without the signing of the Record of Decision, and the ensuing withdrawal, there could have been 30 uranium mines in the Grand Canyon vicinity in the next 20 years. It is unfortunate that this isn't retroactive and also would prohibit previously approved uranium mining. 

Thankfully, this withdrawal will continue to allow natural resource development in the area, such as geothermal leasing.

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