Uranium-mining ban was a grand decision
By Roger Clark
Arizonans and all Americans won a major victory on Jan. 9  when Interior Secretary Ken Salazar signed a “record of decision” for a 20-year ban on new uranium claims on 1.1 million acres of public land surrounding Grand Canyon National Park.
The decision reduces the risk of permanent harm to wildlife, water, our economy and sites sacred to Havasupai and all native people in our region. It also best serves our nation’s interests.
As Salazar noted,
“Time and again, we as a nation have shown that our strength comes not just from the power of our industry and technology but also from the wisdom of restraint.”
It was in this spirit that the Obama administration acted decisively, as so many leaders have done before, in choosing to protect enduring values instead of succumbing to the temptation of short-lived economic interests.
The Grand Canyon has been northern Arizona’s economic engine for nearly a century. It sustainably provides $700 million a year in jobs and revenue. We can survive boom-and-bust cycles, but the last uranium rush left a deadly legacy of poisoned land and water that will keep employing cleanup crews for generations.
Somehow industry promises to “do it different this time” sound like a serial embezzler’s cry for one more crack at running the cash register.
That is why the 20-year ban is supported by an unprecedented coalition of tribal leaders; hunting, fishing, ranching and conservation groups; municipal water suppliers; wildlife advocates; and nearly 300,000 individuals who commented favorably on the proposed moratorium. Chambers of commerce, community leaders and elected officials are also among those mainstream voices speaking out against a handful of politicians now defending industrialists’ demand to exploit our treasured landscape.
At risk are the Grand Canyon’s watersheds. These interconnected surface and groundwater systems extend many miles beyond the park’s boundary. Hikers can no longer drink from a permanently polluted spring located beneath an abandoned uranium mine on the Canyon’s South Rim.
New mines threaten hundreds of other springs and creeks, which offer precious water to thousands of species. Moreover, every new mining operation sacrifices cultural sites and fragments wildlife habitat by enveloping the park in dirt roads, dust, heavy machinery, noise, off-road drilling rigs, power lines and relentless truck traffic.
For all of these liabilities, two decades of mining would yield handsome returns from high-grade uranium ore. But under an antiquated national mining law, not one penny in royalties would be returned to taxpayers.
As for jobs, the environmental-impact statement estimates that the five counties in the area, including Coconino and Mohave, would see the number of jobs increase by 0.4 percent while the mining lasts. Mining would not produce any significant change in economic conditions for residents or local and regional economies.
Virtually all uranium-mining corporations set to mine around the Grand Canyon are foreign-owned. Mining profits would mostly accrue in offshore accounts.
One wonders why proponents continue to lie about the amount of jobs and revenue uranium mining around the Grand Canyon might produce. Fortunately, well-informed leaders have prevailed.
Americans are cheering this landmark decision. And fellow citizens can stand proud as we approach our Grand Canyon State’s centennial celebration.
In closing, Salazar said,
“Every generation of Americans faces moments when we must choose between the pressures of the now and the protection of the timeless. Today, we know that we can no longer afford to turn our backs on … iconic landscapes like the Grand Canyon. … I am therefore at peace with this decision, because it is the right thing to do.”
And so it is.
Roger Clark is the Grand Canyon program director for the Grand Canyon Trust and a former Grand Canyon river guide.
Source: Arizona Republic
Industry tries to overturn ban on Grand Canyon uranium mining
PRESS RELEASE: February 27, 2012
CONTACT: Environmental Groups
- Ted Zukoski, Earthjustice, (303) 996-9622
- Taylor McKinnon, Center for Biological Diversity, (928) 310-6713
- Sandy Bahr, Sierra Club, (602) 999-5790
- Roger Clark, Grand Canyon Trust, 928-890-7515
WASHINGTON – February 27 – In an attempt to open public lands around Grand Canyon National Park to dangerous new uranium mining, the National Mining Association today filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the Interior Department’s recent enactment of a 20-year ban on new uranium mining development across 1 million acres. In response, the Center for Biological Diversity, Grand Canyon Trust and Sierra Club, represented by Earthjustice and Western Mining Action Project, announced plans to intervene on the side of the government to defend the Grand Canyon.
“Uranium mining threatens the air, life-giving water and wildlife of the Grand Canyon area,” said Ted Zukoski, Earthjustice staff attorney who will be representing the groups in the lawsuit. “We’ll be there in court to help defend the reasonable protections that limit that damage.”
The Interior Department ban approved in January prohibits new mining claims and mine development on existing claims without valid permits. The National Mining Association’s lawsuit attacks the department’s authority to withdraw more than eight square miles from damaging mining activities, no matter the threat to public lands, waters and wildlife. In addition, the industry alleges that the Interior Department’s exhaustive, 700-page evaluation of environmental impacts, which took more than two years to prepare, was inadequate.
“Grand Canyon National Park is an international icon, a biodiversity hotspot and an economic engine for the Southwest. The decision to protect it from more uranium mining pollution was the right one, and one that we’ll defend,”
said Taylor McKinnon, public lands campaigns director with the Center for Biological Diversity.
Uranium pollution already plagues the Grand Canyon and surrounding area. Proposals for new mining have prompted protests, litigation and proposed legislation. Scientists and tribal and local governments and businesses have all voiced support for the new protections because dozens of new mines threaten to industrialize iconic and regionally sacred wildlands, destroy wildlife habitat and permanently pollute or deplete aquifers.
“The Sierra Club has a 100-plus year history of acting to protect the Grand Canyon and its watershed,”
said Sandy Bahr, chapter director of Sierra Club – Grand Canyon Chapter.
“We will continue to work to ensure that these public lands are protected and that uranium mines are not allowed to contaminate the groundwater and threaten the watershed.”
Over the past few years, nearly 400,000 people from 90 countries wrote to the Department of the Interior urging it to ban new uranium mining around the canyon after a uranium boom threatened to bring a new wave of destructive mining threatening recreation, tourism, wildlife habitat and waters in Grand Canyon National Park.
“The lawsuit further demonstrates that the mining industry has little regard for the rule of law or respect for local, tribal, economic, and public interest in protecting the Grand Canyon,”
said Grand Canyon Trust program director Roger Clark.
Source: Common Dreams
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