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County Board of Supervisors supports Grand Canyon mining ban

A 20-year ban on new uranium mines was issued to study whether mining  will contaminate the seeps and springs, which provides water to both people and livestock. (Photo courtesy of Grand Canyon Trust)

A 20-year ban on new uranium mines was issued to study whether mining will contaminate the seeps and springs, which provides water to both people and livestock. (Photo courtesy of Grand Canyon Trust)

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — During an April 2 work session, the Coconino County Board of Supervisors issued a resolution in support of a permanent ban on uranium mining around the Grand Canyon and its watershed.

The Board of Supervisors previously enacted a similar resolution in 2008, which stated the group “opposes uranium development on lands in the proximity of the Grand Canyon National Park and its watersheds.” The new resolution was formulated in response to a request to lay out a clearer policy position in support of Rep. Raul Grijalva’s recently-introduced Grand Canyon Centennial Protection Act, which he brought before Congress on Feb. 26.

The Grand Canyon Centennial Protection Act is designed to make permanent the 20-year mining ban placed on the Grand Canyon and about 1 million surrounding acres by former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in 2012.

District 3 supervisor Matt Ryan said the resolution was consistent with the board’s previous stances on uranium mining and other extractive activities around the Grand Canyon and offered his support for the proposal.

District 5 supervisor Lena Fowler also signaled her support for the resolution.

“I see this as a health and environmental issue,” she said. “Having worked to clean up uranium mines on (the) Navajo Nation since the 80s, I have really seen the impact of uranium mining and tailings on peoples’ lives and environment.”

Fowler said the effects of contamination were invisible and not able to be detected for years. She also noted uranium mining’s effect on the entire community in terms of economic development, explaining that there cannot be development around uranium mines or tailings because it isn’t safe.

“It really does impact the whole community and society economically,” she said. “I wholeheartedly support this and will continue work on banning and cleaning up uranium mines and tailings.”

However, District 4 supervisor Jim Parks expressed concerns that Grijalva’s bill faces dim prospects, noting that even if it is passed by the House of Representatives, its future in the Senate and on the president’s desk is dead on arrival.

“This resolution, to me, is not what we need to be doing,” he said. “This is another kind of resolution that is non-binding, that is political in nature. Everyone wants to please Mr. Grijalva, I get that, but to ban all mining, that’s not right.”

Parks also said farming and ranching could be endangered by the bill, and cited those concerns as the reason he would not vote in favor of the resolution.

The motion to support the resolution passed 4 to 1.

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