The mining industry is pressing the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a 20-year ban on new uranium mining claims on one million acres of public land surrounding the Grand Canyon.
The American Exploration and Mining Association (AEMA) and National Mining Association (NMA) on Friday filed petitions asking the court to review the 2012 ban by Ken Salazar, who was working under the Obama administration as Secretary of the Interior at the time.
The petition comes after years of challenge. Most recently, the mining industry is claiming that Salazar’s authority was unconstitutional under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act to protect areas larger than 5,000 acres from mining.
But in December, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the decision, according to a press release by the Grand Canyon Trust.
Read about a 700-mile expedition across the entire length of the Grand Canyon to raise awareness about the threats facing one of the nation’s most iconic national parks.
Mining interest argue that uranium doesn't harm the land, while environmentalists and scientists want more research on what the radioactive element is doing the the wildlife, vistas and water sources, including the Colorado River. Around 30 million people in Mexico, Nevada, California, and Arizona, including the Havasupai Tribe, rely on it for water.
“This is an attack on the Grand Canyon region, which is bad enough,” said Ted Zukoski, an Earthjustice attorney representing the Havasupai Tribe and conservation groups. “It’s also a long-shot attempt to kneecap the Interior Department’s authority to ever again protect large public landscapes from the damage and pollution hardrock mining can have on recreation, cultural resources, wildlife, clean air and water, and the communities that rely on those values.”