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Obama bans uranium mining near Grand Canyon

Ban will be in effect for 20 years

The Obama administration has banned new mining near the Grand Canyon, an area known to be rich in high-grade uranium ore reserves, the Associated Press reported.

The federal ban, announced on Monday, will shake off pressure from congressional Republicans and mining industry figures who wanted a a policy change affecting a million acres, the AP reported. No mining will occur near the Grand Canyon for 20 years, Reuters reported.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar made the announcement, although he had imposed temporary bans on new mining claims already.

"A withdrawal is the right approach for this priceless American landscape," Salazar said in a speech at the National Geographic Museum, the AP reported. "People from all over the country and around the world come to visit the Grand Canyon. Numerous American Indian tribes regard this magnificent icon as a sacred place, and millions of people in the Colorado River Basin depend on the river for drinking water (and) irrigation."

Soon after, the National Mining Association expressed disappointment in the decision, Reuters reported. However, no immediate challenge has been announced. Uranium claims near the Grand Canyon have risen, from fewer than 1,000 claims a year in 2005, to more than 8,000 in 2009.

Many oppose uranium mining due to the health risk, which involves water contamination. Millions of Americans rely on drinking water from the Colorado River.

"One of the things President Obama's going to be remembered for is protecting the Grand Canyon," said Jane Danowitz of the Pew Environment Group, a non-profit organization that has pushed for the mining moratorium, Reuters reported.

The Grand Canyon is also a tourism hot spot for the country, generating more than $687 million in annual revenue, and creating more than 12,000 full-time jobs, Reuters reported. 

"Do you want mining in the vicinity of a tourist destination that's visited by 5 million people every year?" Danowitz told Reuters. "No, I think is the answer."

This article originally appeared on GlobalPost.

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1 comment on this story

Jan 9, 2012, 5:33 pm
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A big thank you to my friend Paul Reilly who is running for mayor of Flagstaff for asking Paul Gosar why he blocked all the people on Facebook who were posting their views on uranium mining. You may hear in Paul Gosar’s own voice what he thought of us. So if you live in CD4 please do not voice your opinions if you do not agree with Paul Gosar or you will be blocked.


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Tara Alatorre/Cronkite News Service

The Canyon Mine in the Kaibab National Forest south of the Grand Canyon was created in the 1980s to tap uranium deposits.