New Uranium Mining Banned

January 2012 marked the passage of a new law banning all new uranium mining activity on a considerable section of land close to Grand Canyon National Park.
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Photo by Brad Bratcher

By Courtney Holden

This January marked the passage of a new law banning all new uranium mining activity on a considerable section of land close to Grand Canyon National Park. The ban is an effort to stem water pollution, species devastation and industrialization in the area.

The Department of the Interior, under Obama Administration legislation, will make new mining claims and exploratory drilling illegal in the protected section for the next 20 years. The 1 million acre expanse includes three unconnected parcels: one north of the Grand Canyon to Kanab Creek; another along the South Rim in the Kaibab National Forest; and the last northeast of the national park to House Rock Valley.

"We've always thought that this was something the Department of the Interior could do and should do," Sandy Bahr, director of the Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club, told the AZ Capitol Times. "The mining industry seems to forget that these are public lands, not their lands. There are more important things than their short-term profits! namely the Grand Canyon."

Had the mining been permitted to continue, fragile water ecosystems would have been in danger of permanent damage. Pollution may have forever altered springs like Elves Chasm, Showerbath Spring and Havasu Creek, which are home to myriad species, some of them found only in those locations.

Before the ban was in place, more than 400,000 individuals from 90 countries wrote to the Department of Interior in its support. Advocates for the bill's passage included a wide range of outdoor enthusiasts, Indian tribes, businesses, politicians and researchers concerned about the detrimental effects of uranium mining.

While 20 years isn't forever, according to the AZ Capitol Times Interior Secretary Ken Salazar believes it will allow us to develop the science relative to uranium mining.

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