NMA, Nuclear Energy Institute Challenge 1M-Acre Grand Canyon Mining Ban


"The National Mining Association and the National Energy Institute have sued federal agencies to try to rescind the withdrawal of lands near the Grand Canyon National Park from mining activities."

The National Mining Association and the Nuclear Energy Institute announced Monday they have filed papers challenging the constitutionality of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's decision to withdraw one million acres surrounding the Grand Canyon National Park from new mining claims for 20 years.

A complaint has been filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona, asking the court to "immediately vacate the Secretary's withdrawal and enjoin defendants from withdrawing any lands under the Northern Arizona Proposed Withdrawal."

The NMA and the Nuclear Energy Institute also ask the court to declare that FLPMA §204 does not allow the Secretary of the Interior "to engage in withdrawals of 5,000 acres or more of public lands."

The two advocacy groups also petition the court to declare that FLPMA (Federal Land Policy and Management Act) Section 204(c) is unconstitutional "as it contains an impressible legislative veto...and enjoin any further action by the Secretary with respect to the subject lands pursuant to Section 204(c)."

The court is also requested to declare that Salazar's actions--along with those of fellow defendants the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the U.S. Forest Service--and the Final Environmental Impact Statement supporting the withdrawal of the land from mining exploration and development violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

The Final EIS was published by BLM on Oct. 27, 2011, although Salazar had already issued a Public Land Order under his emergency withdrawal authority in Section 204(c) withdrawing the one mission acres from mining exploration and development on June 27, 2011.

In a statement, NMA contends, "DOI has provided no evidence in the record or in its environmental impact statement that a million-acre land grab is necessary to avoid environmental harm; it has inadequately analyzed the economic impact of its actions; and the department has failed to rigorously evaluate the ‘no action' alternative require by NEPA."

The plaintiffs also asked that the Interior Secretary's Record of Decision supporting the withdrawal, which was signed on Jan. 9, 2012, be set aside.

When Salazar signed the R.O.D. order on January 9th, the Department of Interior declared, "The withdrawal does not prohibit previously approved uranium mining, new projects that that could be approved on claims and sites with valid existing rights."

"The withdrawal would allow other natural resource development in the area, including mineral leasing, geothermal leasing and mineral materials sales, to the extent of applicable land use plans," said the agency. The BLM environmental impact statement concerning the withdrawal says that up to 11 uranium mines, including four that are currently approved, could still be developed based on valid pre-existing rights.

Without the withdrawal, the EIS claims there could be 30 uranium mines near the Grand Canyon National Park in the next 20 years. - Dorothy Kosich, Mineweb

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