Bush Ignores Law Protecting Grand Canyon as Uranium Mining Claims Soar
WASHINGTON - The Bush administration allowed Phoenix-based Neutron Energy to stake 20 new mining claims south of the Grand Canyon on August 7, in violation of an emergency Congressional resolution passed seven weeks earlier that declared off limits to mining activity approximately 1 million acres adjacent to Grand Canyon National Park.
A new Environmental Working Group (EWG) analysis of records generated by the Interior department’s Bureau of Land Management unearthed evidence of Neutron Energy’s claims, filed in defiance of a Congressional resolution aimed at protecting the Canyon and the Colorado River that flows through it from a surge of uranium mining activity sparked by uranium prices escalating in anticipation of new nuclear power plant construction.
“The Bush administration’s Grand Canyon giveaway is a direct violation of the law,” said EWG Senior Analyst for Public Lands Dusty Horwitt. “This is the environmental equivalent of a subprime mortgage on the nation’s most iconic natural treasure. Mining companies get in cheap today, and the public pays tomorrow for what is certain to be a major environmental disaster.”
EWG alerted the public and Congress to the rush for mining rights around the Grand Canyon in an August 2007 report called Mining Law Threatens Grand Canyon, other Natural Treasures. This week’s updated analysis by EWG shows that as of October 1, 2008, speculators and mining interests have filed 8,568 mining claims in the area protected by the emergency resolution, compared to 110 claims in January 2003.
Federal documents also show that the administration has illegally processed or approved requests to explore and drill for uranium on at least seven claims in the protected area after the House Natural Resources Committee resolution, passed June 25. The resolution invoked a rarely-used emergency provision to protect a million-acre expanse around the canyon.
Chairman of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), spearheaded legislation that would protect this land permanently. EWG urges Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid (D-NV) and House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), to include Grijalva’s bill in the sweeping public lands package to be considered next month.
The Bush administration said that it will defy the Congressional resolution. Three conservation organizations -- the Grand Canyon Trust, Center for Biological Diversity and Sierra Club -- have filed suit to force its compliance.
Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), chair of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, and a number of conservation organizations have protested the administration’s stance.
Napolitano, the Southern Nevada Water Authority and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California have written Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne expressing concern about the impact the surge in claims would have on the Grand Canyon National Park and the Colorado River, the source of drinking water for 25 million Americans, including residents of Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Phoenix.
The antiquated 1872 Mining Law leaves the federal government virtually powerless to prevent mining activity on public land, even if mining threatens national parks or precious water resources. Last year, the House passed a comprehensive mining reform bill but the measure stalled in the Senate.
Mining has been the nation’s leading source of toxic pollution for nine consecutive years according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
EWG is a nonprofit research organization based in Washington, DC that uses the power of information to protect human health and the environment.