House of Representatives Votes To Protect Sacred Sites and Iconic Landscapes from Mining

The Grand Canyon National Park at Dawn     Photo: Wikimedia

The Grand Canyon National Park and Chaco Culture National Park both are under threat from nearby mining and drilling developments being advanced by the Trump Administration.  The House of Representatives voted by comfortable margins on Wednesday to protect both Parks from contamination by banning nearby extraction activities, but there is no companion legislation in the Senate so these measures will likely stall now.  

Why This Matters:  The Trump Team is trying to “camouflage” its plans to expand mining near the Grand Canyon as a national security imperative and then pad the pockets of the developers by having the government buy the uranium.   A White House working group is expected to make recommendations in the coming weeks that the government needs to buy uranium for national defense purposes and they would then use that as a justification to lift a moratorium on such mining that the Obama Administration put in place in 2012.  But this justification is trumped up — to the extent the U.S. may need uranium, it can get it from our allies like Canada and Australia.  The Grand Canyon is one of the most iconic U.S. Parks and a natural wonder — it is hard to imagine the public would support uranium mining adjacent to the Park — it is a national treasure.  

Mining and Drilling Threat

The Democratic Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, Rep. Raúl Grijalva is the author of the legislation, and he argues it is necessary to stop plans to jumpstart mining in the area that is “not theoretical and not trivial.”  According to The Hill, the price of uranium is at its lowest level in more than a decade, and the industry needs the government’s help to both gain access to the uranium to mine and then to immediately turn around and sell it to the government to add to our stockpiles.

Grijalva went on to say, “So the industry wants a sweetheart deal. They want to expedite their critical minerals so they can just keep skip the process. And then more importantly, a guaranteed buyback. Talk about creeping socialism. My God, we’re guaranteeing a revenue-based system. That rarely, if at all, happens.”

The Chaco Canyon bill removes more than 316,000 acres from oil and natural gas development and protects the more than 5,000 artifacts estimated to be within the greater Chaco region, which are important to the heritage and culture of both the Navajo and Pueblo peoples.

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