Washington, D.C. – After months of analysis, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar released a draft Environmental Impact Statement assessing the impact of hardrock mining on lands within the Grand Canyon watershed. Over the next forty-five days, the public is invited to comment on the Secretary’s proposal to withdraw up to one million acres of land around the Canyon from new mining claims.
“The Grand Canyon is the quintessential American landmark—from its jagged red cliffs to the winding Colorado River, it’s easy to see why it was designated a national park nearly a century ago,” remarked Nancy Pyne, Preservation Associate with Environment America. “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.”
In the months leading up to July of 2009, Environment America, conservation advocates and outdoors enthusiasts around the country urged the Administration to halt dangerous hardrock mineral extraction around the Grand Canyon. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar received comments from nearly 100,000 citizens asking him to withdraw one million acres of land around Grand Canyon National Park from new mining claims for up to twenty years - the longest period possible under current law. Arizona Congressman Raúl Grijalva also played a key role in advocating for mining protections around the Canyon.
In addition to the 98,285 individual comments, 34 organizations submitted a letter of support for protecting the canyon from mining. The Administration has spent the past year and a half deciding whether to implement the twenty year withdrawal, during which time no new mining claims have been granted on these lands.
“It is clear that Americans understand the value of this beautiful landscape and don’t want to see it destroyed,” added Pyne. “The ghost of mining would haunt the Canyon for centuries. Families travel across the country and the world to experience the grandeur of the Grand Canyon. They don’t expect to encounter an industrial wasteland.”
The landscape isn’t the only thing at stake. The Colorado River, which runs through the Grand Canyon, provides drinking water for 25 million Americans living as far west as Los Angeles. Furthermore, 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.
Due to the rising price of uranium, the number of hardrock mining claims across the West has increased exponentially in recent years. Currently, there are at least 8,500 mining claims in the area at stake. This is up from only 100 claims in January of 2003. Eleven hundred of the claims are within five miles of the canyon, the closest company to break ground is less than 2 miles from the Park boundaries.
“Mining that close to the Grand Canyon threatens to wreak havoc on the landscape, spoil opportunities to hike, rock climb, camp, raft and take in the scenery, and puts the drinking water supply for millions of Americans at risk,” said Pyne. “Secretary Salazar’s choice is all too clear. We urge him to listen to the American people and protect one million acres of land around the Canyon for the next twenty years.”