Salazar Issues Moratorium on Grand Canyon Uranium Mining
The following is Arizona Wilderness Coalition’s Statement on Secretary Salazar’s moratorium on uranium mining in the Grand Canyon:
Grand Canyon—Today, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar issued a directive that places a six-month moratorium on new uranium mining in the Grand Canyon region. The Secretary also conveyed his request that a full withdrawal of the 1 million acres in question is chosen as the federal agencies’ preferred alternative in an ongoing Environmental Impact Statement addressing uranium mining on lands around Grand Canyon National Park.
“Uranium mining in the Grand Canyon eco-region has a history of land and water contamination, and given the wilderness resources of this vast region, the Secretary’s announcement will help ensure we don’t spoil the crown jewel of Arizona and our country,” says Matt Skroch, executive director of the Arizona Wilderness Coalition. “The Grand Canyon sustains thousands of jobs in the tourism industry, and contributes directly to the $5 billion dollar influx of revenue from wildlife related recreation around the state. That fact, combined with our interests to protect this stunning ecosystem for future generations, highlights the importance of using a precautionary approach in dealing with the extraction of such a volatile mineral.”
There are more than 3,000 uranium mining claims in the plateaus surrounding the Grand Canyon. Development of these claims would industrialize regionally sacred wildlands, destroy wildlife habitat prized by sportsmen, and permanently pollute or deplete aquifers feeding the Grand Canyon’s biologically rich springs.
Uranium mining and exploration has spiked in recent years, as the market price for the mineral has increased. The United States Geological Survey has recently released studies that show contamination of watercourses and lands adjacent to existing mines, posing significant human and ecological health questions, including groundwater contamination. The Secretary’s announcement does not affect existing, valid operations currently working in the area, though it would halt new uranium mining for the next 20 years. In May, Congressman Raúl Grijalva (AZ-7) wrote to the Secretary with his request to withdraw the full million acres from mineral entry.
A Public Land Order making an emergency withdrawal of six months will be published in the Federal Register within the next week. A final EIS is expected to be released to the public in the fall of 2011.
The Arizona Wilderness Coalition’s mission is to permanently protect and restore wilderness and other wild lands and waters in Arizona for the enjoyment of all citizens and to ensure that Arizona’s native plants and animals have a lasting home in wild nature. We do this by coordinating and conducting inventories, educating citizens about these lands, enlisting community support, and advocating for their lasting protection.
Grand Canyon photo courtesy of Nature Crusaders