DOI Looking to Ban Mining Near Grand Canyon

Source:

"Proposed withdraw encompasses one million acres near the Grand Canyon."

The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) is scheduled to release a Draft Environmental Impact Statement Friday that would ban new mining claims on one million acres near the Grand Canyon.

The Northern Arizona Proposed Withdrawal Draft EIS is scheduled to be published in Friday's Federal Register, which begins the official 45-day comment period on the proposed withdrawal.

The document was prepared by the Bureau of Land Management, which is acting as lead agency in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, other state and local agencies and seven Native American tribes.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar issued a federal order in July 2009 calling a two-year "Time-Out' from all new mining claims in the Arizona Strip near the Grand Canyon. The lands blocked from any new exploration and mining activity include 633,547 acres managed by the BLM and 360,002 acres of U.S. Forest Service lands. The acreage is believed to contain substantial uranium deposits.

Among the proposed alternatives contained in the DEIS are a withdrawal of 650,000 acres from hardrock mineral exploration and mining for 20 years, subject to valid existing rights.

The draft environment study of mining near the canyon comes three days after the Obama Administration's proposed budget which would move jurisdiction over hardrock mining to the Mineral Leasing Act, EARTHWORKS noted.

"Placing mining under the Mineral Leasing Act would give land managers like those who administer the forests around the Grand Canyon the same authority over mines," EARTHWORKS suggested.

"The choice is between an antiquated mining law that allows mining to occur on public land with no return to the taxpayers, and a leasing system that compensates taxpayers and gives the Interior Department more say over where mining can occur," Pagel said.

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