Grand Canyon Mining Ban in Jeopardy

by Vins

Protection of Grand Canyon National Park from uranium mining is being challenged by the American Exploration and Mining Association, the National Mining Association, and the Trump Administration, which seek an end to a 20-year ban on mining in and around the park. The existing ban covers a million acres of public land around the Grand Canyon, including land that supplies water and resources for Native American tribes.

The ban was created in 2012 in an attempt to allow researchers to better understand the effects of uranium mining on the environment and other resources surrounding the Grand Canyon. At the time, then-Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said, “We have been entrusted to care for and protect our precious environmental and cultural resources, and we have chosen a responsible path that makes sense for this and future generations.” Under the ban no new mining operations were permitted, but existing uranium operations were allowed to continue.

Opening protected lands to uranium extraction would increase uranium supplies, but the reversal of policy would impact the Havasupai people who rely on water from the west side of the Grand Canyon as their only water source. A reversal of the ban could also have an environmental impact on the Grand Canyon itself.  Among the most popular destinations in the US, in 2016, the Grand Canyon had over 5.9 million visitors, and tourism accounted for 9,779 jobs and over $904 million in economic benefits to the local economy, according to the National Park Service.

Establishment news outlets have not been covering this story, although in January, 2018, CNN ran an opinion piece, authored by two former superintendents of Grand Canyon National Park, which opposed uranium mining in the Grand Canyon. Typically, however, corporate media have instead opted to focus on the Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, and his efforts to reduce the size of many national monuments and parks. The efforts of the mining industry to lift the mining ban has received less coverage.

Sources:

Miranda Green, “Uranium Industry Asks Supreme Court to Review Grand Canyon Mining Ban,” The Hill, March 12, 2018, http://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/377956-uranium-industry-takes-challenge-of-grand-canyon-mining-ban-to.

Joanna Walters, “Big Firms Push to Overturn Uranium Mining Ban near Grand Canyon,” The Guardian, March 10, 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/mar/10/grand-canyon-uranium-mining-ban-supreme-court.

Student Researcher: Madlyn Eschholz (University of Vermont)

Faculty Evaluator: Rob Williams (University of Vermont)