More than 300,000 Americans expressed their concerns. An environmental review highlighted the risks at stake. But giving a green light for new uranium mining around the Grand Canyon still wound up attached to an appropriations bill set for a U.S. House vote this week.
National Parks Conservation Association legislative representative John Garder says the rider needs to be removed, because new mining would threaten the landscape and beauty of a place visited by millions of people every year, as well as endanger Colorado River water quality. Twenty-five million depend on the Colorado for drinking water, recreation and irrigation.
"There's a history of pollution from uranium mining that has, at times, been cleaned up at substantial taxpayer expense. So, there's good reason to be cautious."
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar extended a temporary moratorium on new uranium mining last month based on environmental research and public comments.
Garder says there is strong public support for keeping that moratorium in place, including support from water authorities representing water users, affiliated Native American tribes, sportsmen groups, the National Park Hospitality Association, and Arizona's largest newspaper.
Garder adds that there's another point that every member of the House needs to consider. There are no royalties on uranium or other hardrock mining, and some of the uranium would likely be shipped to other countries.
"Multi-national companies may mine around the Grand Canyon, and U.S. taxpayers receive absolutely nothing in return, except the threat of damage to the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River."
Almost five million people visit the Grand Canyon each year. It's the only one of "seven wonders of the natural world" in the U.S. and is listed as one of the top 20 U-S travel destinations by ForbesTraveler.com.