Ban on Mining Grand Canyon Area to be Reconsidered

The Grand Canyon is one of the most defining characteristics of American wilderness, and the surrounding Grand Canyon National Park is an excellent example of the power and beauty of untouched, preserved wilderness. The area draws in quite a bit of money too, between Grand Canyon tours and other amenities like Grand Canyon lodging and restaurants, but there’s an untapped wealth in the area that some are fighting to access – plentiful reserves of high-grade uranium hidden under the surface of the area surrounding the park.

The mining industry has been fighting tooth and nail to access these vast reserves of uranium, but the American government isn’t in a hurry to turn one of its biggest tourist attractions into a mine. Even if the actual mining took place miles from the Grand Canyon, pollution is a serious concern for those in favor of preserving the area’s natural beauty. Polluting the Colorado River is a distinct possibility, but the real danger lies in the potential pollution of Lake Mead, from which Las Vegas draws 90% of its water.

The Obama administration has placed a ban on new mining claims on more than 1 million acres of minable land in and around the Grand Canyon area. While mining is still allowed for those who staked a claim before the ban went into effect, no new claims can be made, and if a mine with a valid claim isn’t able to produce a satisfactory quality and amount of uranium, it may be shut down.

In an attempt to lift this ban, two mining industry groups, the National Mining Institute and the Nuclear Energy Institute, have made appeals against the ban asking the Court of Appeals to overrule the restrictions. Campaigning against the mining industry are five conservationist groups and a Native American tribe in favor of preserving the area.

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The mining groups appealing to lift the ban are reluctant to comment on their justification, but many believe that the ban subverts federal law and is an economically irresponsible position for the government to take. The final verdict has not been announced.

Do you feel that the American wilderness should be preserved, even if it means leaving vast reserves of uranium unmined? How do you think the American government should handle this ban now that it’s being reconsidered? Let us know in the comments section below!