Interior Department Classifies Uranium as a ‘Critical Mineral’

May 23, 2018

A proposal by the U.S. Interior Department would increase domestic mineral production on public lands. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports, it classifies uranium and nearly two dozen others as crucial to national and economic security.

Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey collect soil samples at the Canyon Mine south of the Grand Canyon's South Rim.
Credit Katie Walton-Day/USGS

The U.S. Geological Survey’s “critical mineral” list follows an executive order by President Trump to lessen the nation’s dependence on foreign supplies. It would streamline lease permitting and environmental reviews, and improve mapping of the country’s resources. Officials say each of the minerals also has a supply chain that’s vulnerable to disruption.

Environmentalists, however, worry the plan would ramp up uranium mining near the Grand Canyon where new claims are banned on nearly a million acres.

According to the Sierra Club, the federal proposal would allow projects to move forward without public input, threatening the environment and public health.

The Trump administration is currently considering lifting the 20-year moratorium on uranium mining near the Grand Canyon.