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U.S. House Committee Considers Ending Grand Canyon Uranium Ban

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Daniel Pouliot
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The House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing Tuesday on whether to reverse a 20-year ban on new uranium mining claims on a million acres near the Grand Canyon. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports, a representative of the mining industry and a member of the Havasupai Tribal Council were among those who testified.  

Councilwoman Carletta Tilousi told the committee the uranium ban was crucial and protects the Havasupai from possible negative health effects of mining. She worries expanding exploration in the area would pollute the tribe’s drinking water and increase rates of cancer and miscarriages.

"There’s life there, and I think that is being totally ignored. There’s Havasupai people that live in the canyon and our lives need to be protected and our lives matter too. We are very scared and terrified because we don’t have any place to go after that," she says.

Katie Sweeny from the National Mining Association, however, testified the 2012 uranium ban wasn’t justified by scientific evidence, and protections already exist for the Grand Canyon. She also said mining in the area would leave a relatively small environmental footprint.

The Interior Department’s moratorium on new claims was upheld by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this week.

The U.S. Forest Service last month recommended ending it following President Trump’s executive order to explore ways of increasing energy production on public lands. 

Ryan joined KNAU's newsroom in 2013. He covers a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a frequent contributor to NPR.
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