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Canyon Mining Claims Ban Extended Through December

June 21, 2011

GRAND CANYON, Ariz. - New uranium mining claims near Grand Canyon National Park will be banned for another six months, and possibly much longer. On Monday, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told a Grand Canyon news conference he would prefer a 20-year mining ban on a million acres surrounding the Park, but says more time is needed for a full environmental review.

In a written statement, Governor Jan Brewer blasted the decision, saying it will potentially cost the state hundreds of high-paying jobs and billions in revenue. She believes mining done responsibly will create minimal environmental risk.

However, Jim Stipe, chairman of the sportsmen's group Arizona Council of Trout Unlimited, says Salazar is protecting a "national treasure."

"On the one hand, he's chosen an economic engine that will last forever. And he chose that over a transient, destructive industry, uranium mining, which can be done in much less sensitive areas."

Stipe says uranium mining near the Grand Canyon could potentially cost jobs related to hunting, fishing, recreation and general tourism, offsetting potential hiring by the mines.

"The jobs impact would be less than one percent in job growth. And what jobs are you going to lose in the process? It probably ends up being a wash, or worse. You lose jobs because you don't have the amount of tourism."

Stipe says his biggest concern as a sportsman is the potential for water contamination from mining operations.

"Radiation in the groundwater. Radiation in runoff that can flow, you know, into tributaries of the Colorado River, and in the river itself."

Stipe had been hoping for a final decision from Salazar, but says extending the temporary mining ban for another six months is not a disappointment.

"I think he's being fair to everybody involved, and fairness and caution is great. It's also wonderful news to us that his preferred alternative is to withdraw the one million acres."

The proposed 20-year ban on mining claims has the support of the cities of Flagstaff and Sedona, Coconino County, several Native American tribes and the Arizona Game and Fish Commission.



Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ