Sunset in the Grand Canyon, Arizona. Photo by Kyralab, Flickr.
One of our nation’s most beloved crown jewels, the Grand Canyon’s spectacular vistas and seemingly bottomless canyons are quite simply an unparalleled page in American tradition.
This majestic land deserves more than to be diminished by toxic uranium mining just miles away from its perimeter, yet that is exactly what is happening today.
Currently, mining companies extract uranium from greater Grand Canyon public lands within just a few miles of the canyon’s perimeter, potentially contaminating drinking water of many people in the Southwest and poisoning the Colorado River with toxic chemicals used in the mining process.
In fact, four tribes in the Grand Canyon region — the Hopi, Navajo, Hualapai, and Havasupai — have banned uranium mining on their lands due to the high risk of adverse impacts on their health, water, and land, and past problems with contamination that still haven’t been rectified.
The Wilderness Society in working to halt this environmentally harmful practice in a place as inappropriate as the greater Grand Canyon area. Most recently, we asked our supporters to send letters to the Bureau of Land Management urging the agency to withdraw these lands from mineral extraction activities. You can be part of this campaign by clicking here.
Make no mistake. The public gains little from allowing risky mining activities to take place here. Under an antiquated 1872 mining law, mining companies pay no royalties for extractions from public lands, and lands that are mined are not provided meaningful environmental protections.
Hope on the Horizon?
In Congress, Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz. has reintroduced legislation to permanently withdraw the lands surrounding Grand Canyon National Park from mining. In addition, Rep. Nick Rahall, D-WV, and Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-NM, have introduced legislation in the House and Senate to ensure a fair market value for use of the lands.
But until Congress can act on this legislation, we need interim protection for the Grand Canyon.
The good news is that the Bureau of Land Management is contemplating a proposal by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to ban new mining claims on nearly one million acres of federal lands surrounding Grand Canyon National Park.
photo: Sunset in the Grand Canyon, Arizona. Photo by Kyralab, Flickr.