Letter: Mining stories are misleading

To the editor:

I read with interest the article this week concerning the House Natural Resources Committee resolution to attempt to close over 1 million acres of multiple-use public lands in northern Arizona to future claim staking. Congressmen Rahall and Grijalva have resorted to this trick because there was no possibility of Raul Grijalva's bill (HR 5583, addressing the same issues) being acted upon in this session, before the elections in November.

There is a strong possibility that Grijalva's proposal would not have even made it out of this committee (it is divided 27 Democrats to 22 Republicans; 2 Democrats voted against this resolution, which would have made a vote 25-24 in full committee. Five more Democrats did not show up for this session.) In all likelihood, this bill could not have been passed by this session of Congress, or the next.

A similar attempt to use this resolution tactic to force the will of a minority on the public was found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in a vote of 7 to 2; it is widely believed that the current resolution will likewise be disallowed.

The entire affair is odious political maneuvering to make sure that the people are deprived of even the chance of having our representatives vote up or down on issues.

The article notes that at the Grijalva hearing in Flagstaff last March "14 witnesses were overwhelming opposed" (to mining), but it failed to point out that only two "mining representatives" were invited and allowed to speak (the panel had originally intended to only invite one mining person), and that these people were treated very discourteously and contemptuously by the partisan panel members.

Of course, the 14 were carefully handpicked because they are opposed, for various reasons, to the mining industry. This is another unfortunate miscarriage of our "representative" law-making system that is practiced by both parties and should be condemned wherever it used. A circus like this does not represent public opinion (even in Flagstaff): this is plain dirty politics. Real public opinion is more clearly represented by recent polls that show 67 percent of Americans favor nuclear power.

Representative Grijalva is quoted as citing "...threats to the rare and natural landscape in and around Grand Canyon..." as the reason for "emergency action." This is only Grijalva's opinion: he certainly does not bother to cite any specifics. There is a large body of information available that clearly (to a rational person) debunks the idea that uranium exploration or mining "threaten" the area in any way. This information was made available to, but was widely ignored by, the committee majority members.

There simply is no such "emergency" from claim staking and drilling today. There will be no harm in the Canyon as no exploration or mining activity is allowed anywhere within the National Park boundaries.

Much more claim staking, drilling and mining occurred in this area during the 1980s and 1990s and did not result in any adverse effects on the Canyon, the surrounding area, local populations, visitors' enjoyment, or the land and water. In fact, most people did not even know that this was in progress at the time. Because of careful reclamation by the industry, evidence of all this activity is almost impossible to find today, even by people who were involved and familiar with it 25 years ago.

Mr. Grijalva has only recently decided that an "emergency" exists. Where has he been for the last 30 years? He also does not seem to think any such "emergency" exists in his own district, where a number of huge open pit copper mines are in operation, and mineral exploration on public lands for additional reserves continues daily.

The story contains two other minor (but again misleading) errors: There are in fact fewer than 600 new claims staked on the South Rim. A company did stake 1,875 claims here last summer, but for whatever reason failed to file (with the Bureau of Land Management) most of them. They only retained 75 claims. This true total is far fewer than the number of claims staked here in the 1980s, which resulted in only one new mine, which was never brought into production.

Second, the General Mining Act (the "1872 Mining Law" as it is always called, to prove how old and out-of-date it is) only governs claim staking on public lands and various legal aspects of mining. It conveys no other rights.

However, "resource extraction" and processing is governed (highly regulated, and closely monitored) by the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Protection Act, the Clean Air Act, the National Historic Preservation Act, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, as well as by the National Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Arizona Department of Water Resources, the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (air and water divisions) and various other state and county agencies and laws.

It is time that some facts about this industry and the history of mining and exploration in our area are made known to the public, and to allow them to decide for themselves on these issues.

It is time for our politicians to allow true democracy to settle these same issues, as the people see fit.

C. J. Crossland


(C. J. Crossland has worked in and/or lived around the uranium mining industry for the last 55 years, including 25 years here in northern Arizona. He is employed by a small domestic uranium exploration company based in Phoenix, and is personally involved in uranium exploration in northern Arizona.)


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