Obama administration needs to protect the Grand Canyon from uranium mining
By Lauren Pagel
April 20, 2011
On May 4th, a comment period ends on a long-fought battle to protect the delicate ecosystem outside the Grand Canyon from uranium mining.
The Grand Canyon, the crown jewel of our National Park system, has been increasingly threatened by mineral development in recent years. Most, if not all, of these claims are for uranium. The Grand Canyon is threatened because uranium mining, like other metals on public lands, is governed by the antiquated 1872 Mining Law -- a law which has no environmental standards; a law which makes mining a priority over all other uses of public lands.
In 2009, over 100,000 public comments caused the Department of Interior to create a two-year moratorium on mining around the Grand Canyon -- a moratorium that is about to end. The Obama administration is poised to issue a decision that will determine whether or not the sensitive ecosystems around the Grand Canyon will be protected for another 20 years.
Our goal is to collect 250,000 comments in support of protecting 1 million acres around the Grand Canyon from mining, and I urge you to take action to help us reach our goal.
Unfortunately, many other places are threatened by uranium mining because of its inclusion in the 1872 Mining Law. With the help of our champions on Capitol Hill, Earthworks is also pushing for a legislative change that would give federal land managers more discretion to decide where uranium mining is and is not appropriate. This legislation, introduced this month by Congressman Heinrich and Congressman Luj n from New Mexico would also require uranium-mining companies to pay a royalty -- something that isn't required by the 1872 Mining Law.
Uranium mining can have serious impacts on soil, ground and surface water; often leaving radioactive devastation that can last for years. The legacy of past uranium mining has yet to be cleaned up, and communities are once again threatened a destructive practice which is not properly regulated.
The Grand Canyon, along with all the other important places across the West where uranium mining occurs, deserves protection.