The federal government today extended a moratorium on new mining claims at the Grand Canyon. The extension will be in place for six months, said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.
The Interior Secretary cited concerns about water, air quality and scenery for the moratorium. Salazar has said he and the Obama administration prefer a 20 year ban on new mining claims but they are still studying the issues.
Mining groups are critical of the decision, saying more uranium mining is needed to support domestic energy creation and employ more Americans.
Several members of Arizona’s state government issued statements in support of today’s decision, including Senator Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat from Phoenix. “I was one of the many elected officials, community and business leaders across Arizona and nationwide who asked Secretary Salazar to protect our beloved Grand Canyon, a key resource for Arizona’s tourism and long-term economic survival. I applaud Secretary Salazar’s courageous decision today to extend the moratorium on new uranium mining around the Grand Canyon,” said Sinema. “Secretary Salazar has taken a bold and significant step today to protect the pride of Arizona, and the nation: our Grand Canyon. By extending the moratorium on new uranium mining around the canyon for another 20 years, the Secretary has not only heard the concerns of downstream water users, including my constituents, but also the concerns of tourism-dependent small business owners and communities across the state that could not afford the risk.”
Governor Jan Brewer, vehemently disagrees. “The federal government today has involved itself in yet another instance of excessive and unnecessary regulation – this time potentially at the expense of hundreds of high-paying jobs and billions of dollars worth of revenue for the Arizona economy.
“Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar this morning announced that his agency’s ‘preferred alternative’ is that nearly one million acres of land situated near the Grand Canyon be put off-limits to uranium mining. This decision flies in the face of years of Arizona experience with uranium mining in northern parts of our state, where mining operations have been conducted responsibly and in accordance with federal and state oversight. In fact, both the Arizona Geological Survey and Arizona Department of Environmental Quality have submitted findings that uranium mining – conducted lawfully and with proper oversight – constitutes minimal environmental risk to the Grand Canyon and Colorado River.
“If instituted, this uranium mining ban would deal a blow to future economic growth near the Grand Canyon, as well as our nation’s attempts to improve its energy independence. That’s because these sections of the Colorado Plateau contain the highest-grade uranium ore in the country. The responsible extraction of these deposits would assist domestic energy production and pump an estimated $10 billion into the local economy over the life of the mines, creating quality jobs in rural Arizona and tribal areas of our state hit hard by the recession. Simply put, today’s announcement by the U.S. Department of the Interior is scientifically unsound and economically unwise.
“I love the Grand Canyon. It is easily Arizona’s most recognizable landmark, as well as a timeless treasure and natural resource for the people of Arizona and the world. Nobody wants to see this region harmed, which is why state experts have done studies to ensure that additional uranium mining can be conducted safely and securely. With that information, I ask that federal officials reconsider today’s decision. I want to see the Grand Canyon region flourish and the economy thrive. With a balanced federal policy with respect to uranium mining, both are possible.”
Comments from GCT: The Grand Canyon Trust wishes to sincerely thank Secretary Salazar for announcing his support yesterday for the full 20-year withdrawal of 1.1 million acres of public land watersheds surrounding the Grand Canyon. We look forward to celebrating the Obama administration’s final decision this fall when the Department of Interior releases its Final Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision.
We also applaud Arizona congressman Raul Grijalva’s commitment to the long-term protection of Grand Canyon’s watersheds through legislation and to Havasupai elders for their lifelong opposition to uranium mining within their historic homeland.
The Grand Canyon Trust is honored to join first Americans, Congressman Grijalva, and Secretary Salazar in protecting our region’s water from contamination by uranium mining. The Secretary said that water is the the Grand Canyon’s and our arid region’s “lifeblood.”
The acreage has been the subject of a temporary, two-year mining exploration moratorium that was to expire on July 20, 2011. The Grand Canyon Trust and its conservation partners, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity and others in Arizona and across the nation, have been working hard to convince the Secretary to protect the Grand Canyon region from the many risks associated with uranium mining.
“We’ve been working towards this goal for over two years and are ecstatic about the withdrawal,” stated Roger Clark, uranium program director for the Grand Canyon Trust. “We want to thank the Secretary for his decision and Congressman Grijalva for his steadfast support throughout the past two years. We also want to thank the Mayor and City Council of Flagstaff, the Coconino County Board of Supervisors, the Tusayan City Council, the Mayor and City Council of Sedona and the Sedona Chamber of Commerce, the Scottsdale Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Arizona Tourism Alliance, the Arizona Legislature’s Democratic Caucus, Cottonwood Mayor Diane Joens, Clarinda Vail, Chris Thurston, the Southern Nevada Water Authority, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and everyone else who stood with us on this issue.”
Tourism is the economic engine for northern Arizona’s economy and the Secretary’s decision today protects thousands of jobs and over $700 million per year in tourism revenues, as well as America’s most iconic natural treasure. It’s a great decision for all Arizonans who take immense pride in being known as the Grand Canyon State.
See more at grandcanyontrust.org