Washington, DC – Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva today hailed the nearly 100,000 public comments filed in support of an Interior Department proposal to withdraw nearly a million acres surrounding the Grand Canyon from consideration of new mining claims.
He said the comments embrace the spirit of H.R. 644, his proposal to ban mining claims near the canyon, which draws millions of American and international visitors every year.
“The public has sent an unmistakable message that our national parks are not resources to be exploited,” said Grijalva, who chairs the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands. “They are set aside and treated respectfully for good reason. Future generations should be able to enjoy them as much as we enjoy them today, and that’s what this bill is about.”
The 1872 mining law, which Grijalva has said needs to be rewritten, encourages mineral exploration and extraction on public land. H.R. 644 would permanently forbid uranium and most other mining claims in the Grand Canyon watershed, preserving the land as an unspoiled attraction and protecting surrounding communities from potential environmental health hazards. Uranium is a known human carcinogen linked to lung and bone cancer, kidney disease, birth defects and liver failure, among other conditions. Previous uranium mining operations have taken a serious toll on the health of Native American populations in Northern Arizona.
The Colorado River, which flows through the canyon, provides water for more than 25 million people.
“The comments in support of removing this land from mining consideration give eloquent testimony to the importance of preserving the Grand Canyon as it is,” said Grijalva. “They also remind us that mining comes with costs as well as benefits – costs to the environment, to public health and to future enjoyment of our open spaces. We must weigh these costs when we consider how best to address mining claims and how to revise the mining law to benefit the American people.”
The public comment period, which closed Oct. 30, was part of a mandatory process in which concerned parties weigh in before the Interior Department decides whether to withdraw affected lands from mining consideration for up to 20 years. H.R. 644, which would ensure the land is permanently protected, is co-sponsored by Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming Chairman Edward Markey (D-Mass.), and nearly 40 other members.