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(Updates with statement from agency in third paragraph.)
Oct. 26 (Bloomberg) -- The Obama administration proposed banning new uranium mines on 1 million acres of federal land near the Grand Canyon for the next 20 years.
Previously allowed mines, as well as development on existing claims, would be permitted, the U.S. Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management said today on its website. The bureau said that as many as 11 mines may operate in the area near the national park in the next two decades.
“The Grand Canyon is an iconic place for all Americans and visitors from around the world,” Bob Abbey, the bureau’s director, said in the statement. “Uranium remains an important part of our nation’s comprehensive energy resources, but it is appropriate to pause, identify what the predicted level of mining and its impacts on the Grand Canyon would be, and decide what level of risk is acceptable to take with this national treasure.”
A final decision can be issued by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar after 30 days.
Environmental groups and critics such as former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, a Democrat, have said mine-related waste threatens the region’s land, wildlife and drinking water.
Twelve lawmakers including Republican Senators John McCain of Arizona, and Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee of Utah, introduced a bill on Oct. 12 to prevent Interior from imposing the ban.
The action would declare a “‘de facto’ wilderness” on land that had been accessible for mining, according to a statement posted on McCain’s website.
--Editors: Judy Pasternak, Steve Geimann
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