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For Immediate Release, November 5, 2009

Contact: Taylor McKinnon, (928) 310-6713 or

100,000 Letters Support Protecting Grand Canyon From Uranium Mining

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz.— In a resounding display of public support, tallies released today show that the public sent nearly 100,000 letters and emails to the Bureau of Land Management favoring new uranium-mining protections in the watersheds surrounding Grand Canyon National Park. More than 21,000 of those comments were sent by Center for Biological Diversity members.

The comments, which were submitted in a public comment period that ended last Friday, voice support for the Interior Department’s proposed 20-year “mineral withdrawal” that would prohibit new mining claims and the exploration or mining of existing claims without valid existing rights across nearly 1 million acres surrounding Grand Canyon National Park. The withdrawal would extend and strengthen protections set forth in the two-year land segregation announced by the Department on July 20.

“The public clearly wants the Grand Canyon protected from uranium mining,” said Taylor McKinnon, public lands campaigns director for the Center for Biological Diversity. “This massive show of support confirms the fact that watersheds feeding the Colorado River are no place for a radioactive industrial zone.”

Spikes in uranium prices have caused thousands of new uranium claims, dozens of proposed exploration drilling projects, and proposals to reopen old uranium mines adjacent to Grand Canyon. Renewed uranium development threatens to degrade wildlife habitat and industrialize now-wild and iconic landscapes bordering the park; it also threatens to harm wildlife and habitat and contaminate and deplete aquifers that discharge into Grand Canyon National Park and the Colorado River.

Proposed uranium development has provoked litigation, public protests, and concern or opposition from scientists, city officials, county officials, former Governor Janet Napolitano, the Navajo, Kaibab Paiute, Hopi, Hualapai, and Havasupai tribes, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, and the Southern Nevada Water Authority, among others. The Department’s proposed withdrawal is flanked by Congressman Raúl Grijalva’s proposed Grand Canyon Watersheds Protection Act – legislation that, if passed, would make permanent across the same watersheds the same protections proposed by Interior’s mineral withdrawal.

Hard-rock mining is responsible for the largest toxic releases in the United States, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The 1872 law allows corporations and individuals “free and open access” to more than 350 million acres of public lands across the West, resulting in $1 billion annually of gold, uranium and other metals mined from public lands without payment of a royalty, according to the Congressional Budget Office. 

“Grand Canyon is a microcosm for much broader environmental problems caused by public-lands mining,” said McKinnon. “Congress should act aggressively to make Grand Canyon’s protections permanent and reform the antiquated 1872 mining law.” 

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