Proposed protections for Grand Canyon spark fight over uranium mining – by Maxine Joselow (Washington Post – May 24, 2023)

To mine or not to mine? That’s the question near the Grand Canyon.

On Saturday, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland visited land near the Grand Canyon that tribal leaders and environmentalists want to permanently protect as a national monument. The visit immediately reignited a decades-old debate over the costs and benefits of uranium mining in this iconic landscape.

Tribes and conservation groups argue that new mining threatens to pollute aquifers and contaminate water supplies. The mining industry disagrees and counters that America must reduce its reliance on Russia for uranium, which fuels the nuclear reactors that provide about half of the nation’s carbon-free electricity.

Caught in the middle is President Biden, who could use his executive authority to designate the area as the Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni Grand Canyon National Monument. A visit by the interior secretary is often a precursor to a presidential proclamation.

A spokeswoman for the Interior Department declined to comment on a potential monument designation. A White House spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

The backstory

The debate over mining near the Grand Canyon has a long history. Here’s a brief recap of the past decade:

In 2012, the Obama administration withdrew more than 1 million acres of federal land in the area from new mining for the next 20 years, saying it would “protect our precious environmental and cultural resources.” The decision only blocked new uranium and other hard-rock mines, not existing ones.

For the rest of this article: