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AZ Businesses Launch Campaign Supporting Canyon Mining Moratorium

September 27, 2011

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - Small businesses across Arizona are urging Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to follow through on a proposed 20-year moratorium on new uranium mining near the Grand Canyon. A letter to Salazar signed by dozens of Arizona business associations, and postcards signed by more than 200 small businesses, support protecting the canyon area as a way to help preserve thousands of tourism-related jobs.

Paul Hedger, president of the Arizona Association of Bed and Breakfast Inns, says uranium mining poses too great a risk from potential air and water pollution.

"One only has to look to the U.S. Gulf and what happened there with the BP spill. That wasn't supposed to happen, but it did. So why take the chance of ruining something that is so wonderful?"

The uranium mining industry maintains that modern mining techniques prevent environmental damage. They also point to the jobs that expanded mining would create.

Jaina Moan of the Sustainable Economic Development Institute says the promise of a few hundred mining jobs should not be allowed to jeopardize the natural beauty that supports thousands of jobs in tourism-related businesses.

"Mining might create a few jobs for a few decades. Then those jobs disappear, whereas the tourism that is a big part of our economy lasts indefinitely, as long we preserve the open space and the natural resources that the tourists want to come see."

Sara Luna of the Arizona Conservation Partnership says it's not just the mines themselves that will potentially scar the landscape.

"Truck traffic and road-building and dust are directly connected to uranium mining."

In addition to supporting a 20-year moratorium on new uranium mines, Paul Hedger wants to see Congress overhaul the 1872 Mining Law, which allows mining claims to be filed on public lands for $5 an acre.

"It was designed to promote the development of the West, as I understand it. And I think that goal was accomplished quite a long time ago."

A final environmental impact statement on the proposed mining moratorium is expected this fall.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ