On June 20, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar is expected to make a major announcement at the Grand Canyon. The announcement comes several months after more than 300,000 citizens asked him to withdraw one million acres of land around Grand Canyon National Park from new mining claims for up to twenty years and a month before the expiration of the current two year withdrawal of lands around the Canyon from mining.
Environment Minnesota issued the following statement:
“The Grand Canyon is one of our most treasured American landmarks—from its jagged cliffs to the winding Colorado River, it’s easy to see why it was designated a national park nearly a century ago. The Canyon and the surrounding areas are home to a rich diversity of plant and animal life, including 25 threatened and endangered species. The visible strata in the canyon walls also provide one of the most complete records of geological history in the world. More than 4 million people visit Grand Canyon National Park every year, making it the second most visited park in the country.
“Unfortunately, the Grand Canyon is threatened by toxic uranium mining just outside the canyon’s borders. While Grand Canyon National Park is off limits to mining, currently the national forests and other lands surrounding the park are not.
“Both the canyon and surrounding areas suffer from a history of mining for uranium and other metals, which has left a toxic legacy of pollution. Four streams in Grand Canyon National Park are undrinkable as a result of radioactive uranium contamination near previous mining activity in and around the park.
“Additional uranium mining threatens to disrupt the stunning landscape, pollute the rivers and streams that feed the Colorado River with radioactive waste, endanger fragile desert ecosystems, and contaminate the drinking water for more than 25 million Americans.
“In addition to pollution from the mineral extraction itself, road-building and other exploration infrastructure would significantly disrupt the park’s delicate hydrologic balance and destroy important fish and wildlife habitat.
“It is clear that Americans and in fact visitors from around the world, understand the value of this beautiful landscape and don’t want to see it destroyed. Secretary Salazar made the right decision two summers ago when he temporarily halted new hardrock mining claims. We expect him to ensure that the Grand Canyon will be just as spectacular for generations to come.”