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Federal Land Managers Approve San Francisco Peaks Mining Ban

Ryan Heinsius

Federal officials have approved a 20-year renewal of a mining ban on the San Francisco Peaks. It’ll prevent mineral claims in the popular recreation area that’s sacred to many Southwestern tribes. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports.

The Bureau of Land Management last week approved the request to continue prohibiting mining on nearly 75,000 acres on the Peaks and Mount Elden.

The Coconino National Forest had sought the ban covering one of northern Arizona’s most iconic sites. Forest officials say the San Francisco Peaks’ cultural and religious significance to tribes like the Navajo and Hopi, among others, was the main factor in renewing the withdrawal. But it’s also home to many miles of popular trails, and is a key watershed for the City of Flagstaff.

Several minerals on the Peaks including pumice, gravel, sand and uranium could be of interest to companies in the absence of a mining ban.

Environmental groups supported the renewed withdrawal, but some want it expanded to allow tribes more say in protecting sacred sites on the Peaks.

Ryan Heinsius joined the KNAU newsroom as executive producer in 2013 and was named news director and managing editor in 2024. As a reporter, he has covered 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 Public Media Journalists Association Award winner, and a frequent contributor to NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and national newscast.
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