US court upholds uranium mining ban near Grand Canyon, Arizona

15 December 2017 (Last Updated December 15th, 2017 11:14)

A US appeals court has upheld a ban imposed by the previous federal administration on new mining claims around the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

A US appeals court has upheld a ban imposed by the previous federal administration on new mining claims around the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

In 2012, the US Department of the Interior under the rule of former US President Barack Obama enforced the ban on new uranium mining claims across one million acres of public lands adjacent to the Grand Canyon for 20 years.

Soon after the ban was adopted, mining companies resorted to legal action to overturn it.

However, the US District Court in Arizona refused to direct the government to repeal the moratorium in 2014, with the mining firms them contacting 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Issued by the then interior secretary Ken Salazar, the ban also covers mine development on existing claims without valid permits.

The ban is based on a study conducted by the US Interior Department, which determined that new uranium mining could affect springs, wells and aquifers, in addition to having an adverse impact on groundwater levels, wildlife and public health.

The Havasupai Tribe chairman Don Watahomigie said: “The Havasupai Tribe is gratified to know that the court has recognised the validity of the mineral withdrawal and what we have always known, that this place, these waters and our people deserve protection.

“We cannot repair our infrastructure without key raw materials.”

“The lives of our children and the purity of our waters are not to be gambled with and are not for sale.”

The development comes as the House and Senate natural resources committees discussed the country’s increasing dependence on import of minerals and metals.

According to the US Geological Survey, the country depends on foreign sources for 50 key metals and minerals, while for 20 others, the dependence is complete.

The survey also highlighted that more than half of the minerals required by US manufacturers are imported.

Deposing before the House Natural Resources Committee, the National Mining Association (NMA) stressed on the importance of domestic metals and minerals in various applications across industries.

NMA general counsel Katie Sweeney said: “The US mining industry is the source of raw materials necessary to make planes, trains and automobiles possible, not to mention runways, bridges, rail lines, and roads.

“We cannot repair our infrastructure without key raw materials.”