Washington, D.C. – Today, Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) reintroduced legislation to prevent mining for uranium and other minerals on approximately one million acres near the Grand Canyon.
The Grand Canyon Watersheds Protection Act of 2009 will withdraw the lands near the Grand Canyon from mineral exploration under the 1872 Mining Act. This Act currently allows companies or private citizens to stake claims for minerals such as uranium in close proximity to Grand Canyon National Park. Included in the area to be withdrawn are 628,886 acres in the Kanab Creek area, 112,655 acres in House Rock Valley managed by Bureau of Land Management, and 327,367 acres in the Tusayan Ranger District of the Kaibab National Forest south of the Canyon.
House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick J. Rahall (D-WV), Congressman Ed Pastor (D-AZ), and Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) are original co-sponsors of the bill.
“We have a responsibility to protect the Grand Canyon,” said Grijalva. “The federal government and mining companies should not propose new mining when they still have not adequately dealt with the cleanup of old uranium mine sites on tribal lands and other lands around Northern Arizona that are causing ongoing health problems.”
“Congress has been asleep at the wheel in failing to address this issue by reforming the out-dated mining law from the 19th century that still allows people to stake claims and mine without paying any fees for the minerals they extract or cleaning up the land after they’ve mined. Those of us supporting reform will try again this year to pass meaningful changes to the mining law. In the meantime, it’s critical that this bill to protect the Grand Canyon move forward,” said Grijalva.
“The unparalleled beauty of the Grand Canyon has made it one of those places that people around the world automatically recognize as truly American. It is a natural wonder that we have an inherent duty to preserve for coming generations by restricting future uranium mining. President Theodore Roosevelt could not have been more on the mark then when, speaking of the Grand Canyon, he warned, ‘Leave it as it is…the ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it,’” said Rahall.
In 2008, the U.S. Forest Service allowed exploratory drilling for uranium within a few miles of the Grand Canyon National Park’s South Rim, a popular tourist attraction and protected area. The drilling was taking place on the Kaibab National Forest before being enjoined by a federal court because the Forest Service had failed to consider the environmental impacts of mining before approval. Exploratory drilling is also currently taking place on Bureau of Land Management lands on the North Rim of the Canyon without prior analysis of the impacts to the environment.
Grijalva held a Congressional field hearing on the impacts of the uranium mining in Flagstaff, Arizona in March 2008, and received overwhelming support from local and Tribal communities for prohibiting mining around the Grand Canyon.
“I look forward to working with the Obama Administration and Secretary of the Interior Salazar and hope to convince them to utilize their authority to temporarily protect the canyon due to the emergency circumstances existing now. In the meantime, I will work with Congress to consider this important legislation to permanently protect the Canyon and its watersheds,” said Grijalva.