Grand Canyon Mining Battle Goes to Court

Industry groups challenge uranium ban

Sep 10, 2014
Outside Magazine
mining uranium grand canyon outside water environment dispute legal

Mining operations for uranium could pollute the Grand Canyon's water supply, among other things.    Scott_Walton/Thinkstock;

Starting next Tuesday, mining industry groups, the federal government, and conservationists will present arguments before the U.S. District Court for Arizona in a dispute over mining lands surrounding the Grand Canyon. As reported by the Associated Press, mining groups are challenging a high-profile 2012 decision by the Obama administration to ban new mining operations on some one million acres of uranium-rich land for a period of 20 years.

As much as 40 percent of the U.S.'s uranium reserves could lie in the area around the Grand Canyon. Under the ban, some mining is still allowed but only by those who claimed a sufficient reserve before the ban. The mining industry and some Republican lawmakers argue that the restriction is a job killer that denies access to what could be tens of billions of dollars of uranium. Supporters of the ban say that mining could contaminate the Grand Canyon's water as well as negatively affect air quality, wildlife, and lands sacred to Native Americans.

The mining industry will argue that there is little evidence of those threats and that the Grand Canyon's park boundaries keep it protected. According to the AP, the Interior Department stated in court documents, "The record does not support the plaintiffs' zero-impact myth."

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