Whitefish, MT – Today, the House Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee held a hearing to consider legislation that would remove uranium from the Department of the Interior’s ‘critical minerals’ list. The Trump administration inexplicably included uranium on the ‘critical minerals’ list even though it failed to meet the criteria of the executive order. In addition to questions about including uranium on the list, concerns were raised about Trump’s impending decision on a uranium import quota and its potential threat to the Grand Canyon area.
“The inclusion of uranium on the critical minerals list smells awful swampy. Trump put two former lobbyists in cabinet-level positions who represented uranium mining corporations. It doesn’t take much to put two and two together to see that they cooked the books for former clients and special interests at the expense of our public lands,” said Western Values Project Executive Director Chris Saeger.
Uranium, defined as a fuel mineral since the 1970s, was a surprise inclusion to the 34 other minerals published on the list on May 2018, even though, according to the Presidential Executive Order (EO), only “non-fuel minerals or mineral material essential to the economic and national security of the United States” were to be on the list. The EO also made it a policy to “increase exploration and mining activity for each mineral on the list.”
The real threat is 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. 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.
One of the corporations behind the uranium import quota request is a former client of Interior Secretary Bernhardt. Bernhardt provided ‘legal services’ for Ur-Energy USA Inc. from 2009 to 2012. Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Andrew Wheeler, another ex-lobbyist, previously represented Energy Fuels Inc., where he successfully lobbied the Trump administration to illegally reduce the size of the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah because of its proximity to the corporation’s uranium mine and processing facility.
The Trump administration’s Forest Service recommended that the Grand Canyon Withdrawal Area be lifted “as part of the Trump administration’s broader effort to sweep away regulations impeding development.” The Department of Commerce also released sweeping recommendations on ‘critical minerals’ that call for the deregulation of mining and an expedited permitting process for industrial-scale development on federal public lands.