Grand Canyon Gets Reprieve From Uranium Mining
Secretary Of Interior Ken Salazar Announces A Six-Month Stay, In Anticipation Of A 20 Year Ban
The Grand Canyon from Mather Point.
By John Guzzon
Modern Times Magazine .com
June 21, 2011 — Just about a month before new uranium mining claims would be opened at lands near to Grand Canyon National Park, Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced a six-month emergency withdrawal of approximately 1 million acres of federal lands yesterday during a ceremony at Mather Point.
It might have been one of the best pieces of news for the people of Arizona, Nevada and Southern California in the last 20 years and it seems like no one even noticed. Maybe everyone trusted that the federal government would do the right thing and block additional mining in the area just to be sure that too much radiation did not seep into the main water supply for the southwest — a disaster that would change the region forever.
During an emergency withdrawal, the location of new hard rock mining claims under the 1872 Mining Law would be prohibited, however ongoing or future mining exploration or extraction operations on valid pre-existing claims could continue. A Public Land Order making an emergency withdrawal of six months will be published in the Federal Register within the next week and the final environmental impact study is expected to be released to the public in the fall of 2011.
Eight uranium mines have been operating in the region over the past 20 years and those operations will continue unabated.
“The question for us, though, is not whether to stop cautious and moderate uranium development, but whether to allow further expansion of uranium mining in the area,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.
Salazar cited the fact that a majority of the water supply that feeds Phoenix, San Diego, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and many other smaller cities comes through the Grand Canyon as the prime motivation behind banning new claims.
He made it clear, however, that adding new uranium claims in the Grand Canyon area would be dangerous. But, that other sites outside of the one million acres that can pass an environmental assessment will be granted claims in other areas in Arizona and Wyoming.
“It is worth stating again that we believe there are likely a number of valid existing rights in the proposed withdrawal area even if the preferred alternative is ultimately selected as the final decision. We expect continued development of those claims and the establishment of new mines over the next twenty years,” Salazar said. “In fact, cautious development with strong oversight could help us answer critical questions about water quality and environmental impacts of uranium mining in the area. This science, derived from experience, would help others decide what actions are necessary to protect the Grand Canyon.”
At least the Southwest won’t have to worry about a potential doubling of uranium mining around the a wonder of the natural world — which just happens to also be the conduit for most of the water in the Southwest.
The best part?
It will still be there if we ever really need it.
John Guzzon is editor of Modern Times Magazine.