The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

EWG Public Affairs, (202) 667-6982 or (202) 441-6214

Bush Violates Law Protecting Grand Canyon From Uranium Mining

Mining Claims Put a Stranglehold on Iconic Canyon


The Bush administration allowed Phoenix-based Neutron Energy to
stake 20 new mining claims south of the Grand Canyon on August 7, in
violation of an emergency Congressional resolution passed seven weeks
earlier that declared off limits to mining activity approximately 1
million acres adjacent to Grand Canyon National Park.

A new Environmental Working Group (EWG) analysis of records
generated by the Interior department's Bureau of Land Management
unearthed evidence of Neutron Energy's claims, filed in defiance of a
Congressional resolution aimed at protecting the Canyon and the
Colorado River that flows through it from a surge of uranium mining
activity sparked by uranium prices escalating in anticipation of new
nuclear power plant construction.

"The Bush administration's Grand Canyon giveaway is a direct
violation of the law," said EWG Senior Analyst for Public Lands Dusty
Horwitt. "This is the environmental equivalent of a subprime mortgage
on the nation's most iconic natural treasure. Mining companies get in
cheap today, and the public pays tomorrow for what is certain to be a
major environmental disaster."

EWG alerted the public and Congress to the rush for mining rights around the Grand Canyon in an August 2007 report called Mining Law Threatens Grand Canyon, other Natural Treasures.
This week's updated analysis by EWG shows that as of October 1, 2008,
speculators and mining interests have filed 8,568 mining claims in the
area protected by the emergency resolution, compared to 110 claims in
January 2003.

A satellite map showing the claims is available here.

Federal documents also show that the administration has illegally
processed or approved requests to explore and drill for uranium on at
least seven claims in the protected area after the House Natural
Resources Committee resolution, passed June 25. The resolution invoked a rarely-used emergency provision to protect a million-acre expanse around the canyon.

Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), chairman of the House Natural Resources
Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, is
spearheading legislation that would protect this land permanently. EWG
urges Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Speaker of the House
Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to include Grijalva's bill in the sweeping public
lands package to be considered next month.

The Bush administration has said that it will defy the Congressional
resolution. Three conservation organizations -- the Grand Canyon Trust,
Center for Biological Diversity and Sierra Club -- have filed suit to
force its compliance.

Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), chair
of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, and a number
of conservation organizations have protested the administration's

Napolitano, the Southern Nevada Water Authority and the Metropolitan
Water District of Southern California have written Interior Secretary
Dirk Kempthorne expressing concern about the impact the surge in claims
would have on the Grand Canyon National Park and the Colorado River,
the source of drinking water for 25 million Americans, including
residents of Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Phoenix.

The antiquated 1872 Mining Law leaves the federal government
virtually powerless to prevent mining activity on public land, even if
mining threatens national parks or precious water resources. Last year,
the House passed a comprehensive mining reform bill but the measure
stalled in the Senate.

Mining has been the nation's leading source of toxic pollution for
nine consecutive years according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Environmental Working Group is a community 30 million strong, working to protect our environmental health by changing industry standards.

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