Washington, D.C.– In anticipation of Vice President Joe Biden’s July 27 visit to the Grand Canyon, Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva today sent a letter to the White House highlighting the ongoing environmental health threats posed by uranium mining near the canyon and calling on President Obama to overhaul the 1872 Mining Law. That law governs most natural resource extraction in the United States and has not been substantially updated since its original passage.
Grijalva asked the president to consider the fiscal and environmental benefits that would come from passing several long-sought changes to the law, and to prevent the further degradation of the Grand Canyon in particular.
“Uranium mining threatens both the canyon’s natural beauty and the people and habitats that depend on water from the Colorado River,” he writes in the letter. “Communities in Northern Arizona have experienced serious human health and environmental impacts from the mining, processing and transportation of uranium that occurred up until the late 1980s.”
The letter points out that under current mining law, “Companies are able to avoid paying royalties and fees to the public even when extracting minerals from public land, which is made available at rates far below market value. What little environmental study is currently required before starting a new mine can be circumvented by the granting of a categorical exclusion, which precludes the very assessments policymakers need to oversee mining in this country.”
Biden’s visit is expected to focus on economic recovery efforts on public land.
The full letter is available at Grijalva’s Web site.