Uranium mining near the Grand Canyon? It may seem hard to believe, but up until recently, the government has allowed such dangerous mining to be conducted in the sensitive Grand Canyon ecosystem, threatening the Colorado River and Grand Canyon itself with contamination.
Fortunately an end may be in sight. The Bureau of Land Management is currently considering banning new mining claims under the antiquated 1872 Mining Law in the greater Grand Canyon ecosystem. But if and how much land they protect is uncertain.
More background and how you can help
In 2009, Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar proposed to ban new mining claims on sensitive public lands adjacent to the Grand Canyon. Since then a moratorium on new mining claims has been in place and the Bureau of Land Management has been preparing an analysis of the proposed “withdrawal” of federal hardrock mineral deposits from public lands in the area. Recently, the BLM released the draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for the proposed withdrawal. An EIS study is a required step that government agencies must conduct before moving forward with major land management decisions. The BLM is also required to seek public input, and so they are asking for your comments until April 4, 2011.
If allowed to continue, toxic uranium mining in this region could contaminate three major watersheds that drain directly into the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River, which provides drinking water to millions of people throughout the southwest. The Greater Grand Canyon region is still feeling the effects of past uranium mining accidents in the area and the health and safety impacts of radioactive waste polluting the water.
The mineral withdrawal would protect our drinking water, help safeguard sensitive habitat for wildlife, like the endangered California condor, and preserve the wildness and scenic values that are enjoyed by a wide-ranging population from around the world.
The BLM is now accepting public comments on the draft EIS, which considers four different alternatives that range from withdrawing 1,010,776 acres to zero acres. Comments are due April 4.
Grand Canyon. Photo by Jessica Goad.
Cottonwoods in the Grand Canyon. Courtesy Jessica Goad.