Exploratory uranium mine near Grand Canyon given go-ahead
The U.S. Forest Service has granted a permit to a British mining company to drill exploratory uranium mines just miles from Grand Canyon National Park in northern Arizona and just three miles from a popular lookout. Officials in the county voted unanimously to try to stop the exploration, but their opposition has had little effect since the mine is on national forest land. An antiquated mining law from 1872 allows mining companies to stake claim to public lands in the U.S. West for as little as $2.50 an acre, get away with scant environmental oversight, and eschew responsibility for post-mine cleanup. Forest Service officials said that due to the 1872 law, they had little choice but to approve the uranium-mining permit even though a full environmental assessment was never conducted. Activists and locals stressed the absurdity of the law. “If uranium mining operations are about to start on the edge of the Grand Canyon and federal officials say there’s nothing we can do, the time is now to reform the 1872 mining law,” said the Environmental Working Group’s Dusty Horwitt. The House of Representatives passed mining law reform last year, but the bill stalled in the Senate due to opposition from key lawmakers.