The House Natural Resources Committee Wednesday held a hearing on a federal bill that would ban uranium mining on more than a million acres near the Grand Canyon. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports.
Elected officials and tribal leaders testified at the hearing about the Grand Canyon Centennial Protection Act. It was introduced by Arizona Democrat Raul Grijalva in February. It would make permanent a 20-year moratorium put in place by the Obama administration on new uranium claims.
Tribes and environmental groups fear increased mining near the Grand Canyon would threaten public health along with the watershed and environment.
Flagstaff Mayor Coral Evans was among those who testified.
"The history of uranium in northern Arizona is one of destruction and waste. It is estimated that there are nearly 500 abandoned uranium mines on the Navajo reservation alone," Evans said.
Republican Committee member Paul Gosar, however, calls the bill a land grab.
"This dangerous bill threatens both our national security and energy security and seeks to permanently sequester critical minerals that contain the highest grade and largest quantity of uranium reserves in the entire country," Gosar said.
It comes as the Interior Department considers deregulating the mining of uranium and other minerals the Trump administration considers critical to the economy and national security.