For Immediate Release

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Anna Aurilio, 202-725-0268 (cell), 202-683-1250 (office)

Department of Interior Takes a Critical Step Toward Protecting the Grand Canyon

Statement of Environment America Washington DC Director Anna Aurilio

WASHINGTON - "Amid ever-increasing threats to the beauty and wildlife of the Grand Canyon, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced today that he would be placing a two-year hold on new mining leases on more than one million acres of public lands around the Grand Canyon. During this time, the Department of Interior plans to study the environmental impacts of hardrock mining in the area and has reserved the ability to extend this moratorium for up to 20 years.

"While this action will not prevent development of existing leases around the Grand Canyon, it is a necessary step to protect our nation's most cherished landmark. This is a critical step toward ensuring that tourists won't be forced to sit behind mining trucks as they go to visit one of our greatest treasures.

Hardrock mining has a poor environmental track record. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that hardrock mining has degraded approximately 40 percent of the western headwaters that provide drinking water to communities.

"Although this time-out provides a necessary temporary fix, ultimately the lands around the Grand Canyon need permanent protection as embodied in the Grand Canyon Watersheds Protection Act of 2009 (H.R. 644.) To protect all national parks across the country from toxic mining pollution we need comprehensive mining reform of the 1872 Mining Law."

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