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Published On: Thu, Jan 12th, 2012

Sen. John McCain: “devastating blow to job creation in northern Arizona.”

Weekly Edition | Jan. 12, 2012 | By: NP-Staff

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Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., holds a health care town hall meeting in Gilbert, AZ.

WASHINGTON - The Obama administration is banning new hard rock mining on more than a million acres near the Grand Canyon, an area known to be rich in high-grade uranium ore reserves.

The Navajo Nation praised these efforts. The Navajo reservation is located in northern Arizona.

“I support Secretary Salazar’s announcement regarding withdrawing public lands from new uranium mining. The Navajo Nation is against uranium mining and has banned uranium mining since 2005 because of the health issues related to mining the radioactive material,” adding, “I support the announcement because of what we have experienced as Navajo people. We have lost the quality of life for many of our Navajo people who worked in the mines including their families and affected communities. Sec. Salazar’s decision protects the water and land, but most importantly, the health of the people.” said Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly.

The decision, announced Monday by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, a victory to environmental groups and some Democratic lawmakers who had worked for years to limit mining near the national park.

One of the nation’s most popular tourist destinations near Indian country, like the Navajo Nation.

“When families travel to see the Grand Canyon, they have a right to expect that the only glow they will see will come from the sun setting over the rim of this natural wonder, and not from the radioactive contamination that comes from uranium mining,” said Rep. Edward Markey of Massachusetts, the senior Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee.

But Republicans and industry groups opposed it, arguing that Salazar was eliminating hundreds of jobs and depriving the country of a critically important energy source. According to some, the area near the Grand Canyon contains as much as 40 percent of the nation’s known uranium resources, worth tens of billions of dollars.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., called the ban a “devastating blow to job creation in northern Arizona.”

McCain said the ban was “fueled by an emotional public relations campaign pitting the public’s love for the Grand Canyon against a modern form of low-impact mining that occurs many miles from the canyon walls.”

During a speech at the National Geographic Society, Salazar said he was “at peace” with the decision, one of the most high-profile actions of his three-year tenure at Interior. Salazar twice had imposed temporary bans on mining claims.

“A withdrawal is the right approach for this priceless American landscape,” Salazar said. “People from all over the country and around the world come to visit the Grand Canyon. Numerous American Indian tribes regard this magnificent icon as a sacred place, and millions of people in the Colorado River Basin depend on the river for drinking water (and) irrigation.”

The decision imposes a 20-year ban on new mining claims on federal land near the Grand Canyon. About 3,000 mining claims already staked in the area will not be affected, although officials expect fewer than a dozen mines to be developed under existing claims.

While uranium remains an important part of a comprehensive energy strategy, Salazar said, the Grand Canyon is a national treasure that must be protected. Salazar called the ban “a responsible path that makes sense for this and future generations.”

Uranium is used in nuclear power plants, which supply about 20 percent of the nation’s electricity.

The national park attracts more than 4 million visitors a year and generates an estimated $3.5 billion in economic activity. About 26 million Americans in four states, including the cities of Phoenix and Los Angeles, rely on the Colorado River for clean drinking water.

Conservation groups called the 20-year ban a crucial protection for an American icon. Uranium reserves near the Grand Canyon pose a real and present threat to Grand Canyon National Park and its water supply, said Taylor McKinnon, public lands campaigns director at the Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity.

The Bureau of Land Management said the 20-year ban on new mining claims would reduce overall uranium production by about 6 percent of current U.S. demand. State, local and federal governments are expected to lose an estimated $16.6 million in annual tax revenue, and 465 jobs would not materialize.

The Bush administration had opened up land near the canyon to new mining claims. Salazar reversed the Bush policy in 2009 and called for a two-year moratorium on new mining claims around the canyon. He followed up with a six-month extension last year.

Supporters of the ban say any increase in mining jobs is not worth risks to the Colorado River, lands considered sacred by Indian tribes or wildlife habitat. A mining mishap also could be disastrous for tourism and the people in that area.


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  2. I am glad someone cares about the land instead of the money, too long has the earth been torn apart by devastating effects of radiation and our sacred plants, grandparents have been affected negatively with this as well. As for the jobs lost, and revenue lost its a lot better than the possible 465 lives and communties that would have been affected when those individuals become ill due to working near the uranium. Honestly, I think job creation should be localized within the community by creating Diné owned business that puts money back into Diné homes and the local economy.

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Sen. John McCain: “devastating blow to job creation in northern Arizona.”