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Tribes, Conservation Groups File Petition To Tighten Federal Mining Rules In The West

Anita Snow/AP, file

A coalition of tribes and environmental groups are urging the federal government to overhaul how it regulates mining in the West and Alaska. They say current rules disproportionately impact Indigenous people and harm the environment. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports.

The Havasupai Tribe, Center for Biological Diversity and others on Thursday filed a rulemaking petition with the Interior Department to tighten and modernize oversight of hardrock mining on public lands. Prospecting in the U.S. is still largely guided by the Mining Law of 1872 signed by President Ulysses S. Grant, which the groups say is long outdated and largely to blame for polluting sacred sites, water sources and animal habitats for generations.

They’re calling on the Bureau of Land Management to further protect tribal and cultural resources along with the environment, and close loopholes they say allow the mining industry to avoid public review and tribal consultation.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, hardrock mining has contaminated more than 40% of watersheds in the West. Tribes are still grappling with the effects of more than 500 abandoned uranium mines on and near the Navajo Nation left over from the Cold War.

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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