Uranium mining ban challenged by GOP bill

Lawmakers behind legislation claim moratorium will hinder job growth

GRAND CANYON, Ariz. - Republican lawmakers introduced new legislation last week in an attempt to thwart a department of Interior 20-year moratorium on new uranium mining claims on close to one million acres of land around the Grand Canyon.

Republican Congressman Jeff Flake, representing Arizona's Sixth District, along with Congressman Trent Franks (AZ-02) introduced in the House the Northern Arizona Mining Continuity Act of 2011 Oct. 12.

The legislation would also uphold the agreement reached by the Arizona Wilderness Act of 1984 (AWA) that would not ban mining on some of the public lands in the proposed withdrawal. Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Jon Kyl (R-AZ) introduced the legislation in the Senate.

In a letter sent to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Flake emphasized the potential moratorium on new mining claims would hinder job growth in the area.

In a recent press release, Flake said uranium can be mined safely with little environmental impact.

"Uranium mining in northern Arizona can create jobs without tarnishing the splendor of the Grand Canyon, which is why many of Arizona's federal, state, and local officials oppose this lands withdrawal," he said. "Banning new uranium mining claims in northern Arizona will overturn respected public lands management agreements and will certainly stymie job growth in Arizona."

In July, Flake included language in the House Interior Appropriations bill (H.R. 2584) to prevent the proposed withdrawal of public lands to new uranium mining claims. The bill has not yet reached the House Floor for a vote.

A two-year moratorium on new claims in the area has been in effect since July of 2009. When Salazar withdrew close to one million acres of federal land in the Arizona Strip and Kaibab National Forest he said the move was intended to allow time to gather scientific data regarding uranium mining in the area and to gather public input.

Previously approved mining contracts would be allowed to continue even if a decision is made to remove land from mining use. New mining operations could also move forward on claims valid before the proposed withdrawal date of July 21, 2009.


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