Image: Wikimedia Commons
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar last month announced a 20-year plan to protect the Grand Canyon from increasing uranium mining pressures. A bill introduced in Congress this week to "save uranium mining," the Northern Arizona Mining Continuity Act of 2011, would undo that protection from new uranium mining claims.Despite all the talk about energy independence, "a significant percentage of these mining claims and pending operations are controlled by foreign interests, which pay no royalties for the mineral wealth they extract from U.S. public lands," said Jane Danowitz of the Pew Environment Group, in response to the legislation.
AMERICAblog has a pretty great summary of the controversy:
- There's a big pile of yellowcake uranium in the Grand Canyon park area.
- The mining rights are claimed by a bunch of companies, including big foreign ones from Canada and Korea (lots of info in this link).
- Ken Salazar and the Dept of Interior put a moratorium on mining there.
- John McCain and a bunch of other Republicans now want to legislate the moratorium into the ether, because, you know ... jobs. (Or bribes, take your pick.)
- Environmentalists are opposed.
The Pew Environmental Group provides some slightly more detailed background:
In response to a rash of new mining claims near Grand Canyon National Park, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar issued a temporary halt in 2009 to new claimstaking on nearly 1 million acres of public land surrounding the park. The executive branch has applied the Federal Land Policy and Management Act to protect other places from new claimstaking, including Yellowstone National Park and Oregon's Coos Bay. Officials from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and the Southern Nevada Water Authority have pressed to limit new uranium mining along the Grand Canyon's Colorado River watershed, which provides drinking water for 25 million people...
The Interior Department's action was necessary because the mining of gold, uranium, and other hardrock minerals is still governed by a law signed by President Ulysses S. Grant 139 years ago in 1872. The outdated law gives mining companies "free and open access" to the majority of U.S. public land without taxpayer compensation. The Obama administration and members of Congress from both parties have called for modernizing the law. The Environmental Protection Agency has identified the hardrock mining industry as the nation's top polluter: the United States has spent more than $2 billion in federal spending on mine cleanup over the past decade.
Danowitz added, "It is unfortunate that some in Congress are attempting to prevent the Obama administration from taking action to protect the Grand Canyon from new uranium mining."
If you like this, follow Rachel on Twitter.
More on the Grand Canyon and uranium mining:
Moratorium on Uranium Mining in Grand Canyon About to Expire - Will BLM Cave to Lobbyists?
Grand Canyon Should Be a "No Glow Zone"
Rash of Mining Claims Threatens Grand Canyon and Other Natural Monuments
Uranium - "Yellow Monster" - Threatens Grand Canyon