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Grand Canyon Mining Ban in the Works


Monday, February 21, 2011   

PHOENIX, Ariz. - Uranium mining near the Grand Canyon could be banned for 20 years, under a proposal by U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. It's one of four alternatives in a draft study that would protect 1 million acres from new claims.

John Koleszar, president of the Arizona Deer Association, says hunters have invested millions to improve wildlife habitat in what is now a prime hunting area.

"We're putting in tanks or we're putting in catchments or we're putting in the pipeline, and we're trying to make sure that wildlife survives. When you spend millions of dollars doing that, and have the possibility of it all being destroyed for profits for uranium, it is very disturbing."

Koleszar says mining has the potential for air and water pollution, and to ruin the experience for Grand Canyon visitors.

Mining supporters point to the jobs the mines would create, but Jim Stipe, chairman of the Arizona Council of Trout Unlimited, says northern Arizona's economy depends heavily on canyon tourism, which would be adversely affected by mining.

"It changes the face of the Grand Canyon. If you're driving through an industrial area to get there, it doesn't feel the same."

Stipe says mining will require road-building, which will disrupt wildlife migration corridors and cause air pollution. Then there's the potential for damage caused by mine tailings near the national park.

"You can have floods, you can have rains that cause pollution to spread. You can have uranium mining pollution going right into the park and into the Colorado River. That's a concern. And then there's groundwater pollution, as well."

Koleszar agrees with Stipe that mining could permanently scar the fragile, arid environment of the canyon.

"Sometimes it looks like bombed-out craters. Those big, heavy trucks leave a huge imprint, and they never go away."

Public meetings on the proposal are scheduled on the evenings of March 7, 8 and 9 in Phoenix, Flagstaff and Fredonia.

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