Spurning Interior, Congress Pushes to Protect Grand Canyon From Mining

After the Trump Administration Proposed Lifting a Mining Moratorium Around the Grand Canyon, Congress is Taking Action

Today, the House of Representatives voted to pass legislation that would protect the greater Grand Canyon area from new mining claims. This legislation comes partially in response to the Trump administration’s move to list uranium on the “critical minerals” list — a surprise inclusion seemingly meant to challenge a 20-year moratorium on mineral mining around the Grand Canyon. 

“Interior Secretary Bernhardt has long been in the pocket of massive mining corporations. This legislation to protect the Grand Canyon is the right response to Sec. Bernhardt’s attempts to hijack Interior for the benefit of special interest executives,” said Chris Saeger, Executive Director of Western Values Project. “Mineral mining around the Grand Canyon is unnecessary, puts extractive interests ahead of the American public, and threatens to use our public lands in a dangerous single-use fashion.”

Recently, Sec. Bernhardt and Interior leadership surprisingly listed uranium on the “critical minerals” list. The real threat of this move was the 20-year moratorium on new uranium and other hardrock mining claims in the Grand Canyon’s watershed. In January 2018, two uranium mining corporations, Ur-Energy USA Inc. and Energy Fuels Inc., petitioned the Trump administration to impose import quotas on uranium by filing a ‘Section 232’ probe. One of the corporations behind the uranium import quota request is a former client of Sec. Bernhardt, showcasing a clear conflict of interest. 

If an import quota is imposed by President Trump, new demand could be used as a reason to re-open the Grand Canyon Withdrawal Area, which is rich in naturally-occurring uranium deposits. H.R. 1373 would protect the greater Grand Canyon area from those demands. 

H.R. 1373, The Grand Canyon Centennial Protection Act, would permanently prohibit new mining claims on approximately 1 million acres of public land surrounding Grand Canyon National Park. This permanent protection would preserve drinking water for many tribal communities, protect the Colorado River watershed from mining impacts, and safeguard a national treasure on which local economies depend. 

Sec. Bernhardt’s Interior also proposed a new rule that would allow the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to rent public lands to non-energy mineral extractive corporations at a cheaper price and cut royalty rates on public lands — a boon for the ex-lobbyist Sec. Bernhardt’s former clients. It will also allow the BLM to decrease the production requirements if requested by the mining corporation. The proposed rule raised questions, once again, about Sec. Bernhardt’s ties to industry mining corporations and his allegiances to his former clients. 

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