The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill Wednesday permanently prohibiting new uranium mining claims on more than a million acres near the Grand Canyon. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports, it aims to cement a 20-year Obama administration ban.
Supporters of the Grand Canyon Centennial Protection Act say it’s necessary to shield the fragile area from myriad negative effects of uranium mining on the watershed, environment and public health.
"The argument I think that prevailed today: this is the Grand Canyon, period, and it needs to be protected … We’re talking about the Grand Canyon, the icon of our national parks and the water source for 40 million people, and a touchstone, a sacred site for Native Americans across this country," says Arizona Democrat Raul Grijalva who sponsored the bill.
The Havasupai Tribe supports the bill and says uranium mining pollution threatens the seeps and springs of the Grand Canyon including their sole water source. In addition, all five Democratic House members from Arizona co-sponsored the legislation.
Arizona Republican Paul Gosar, however, is a longtime critic of the uranium ban and the bill. He says it’s an attempt to cripple America’s mining industry, and that it poses no threat to water sources or the Grand Canyon.
The Trump administration is considering ending the mining moratorium and has listed uranium as a critical mineral for national security.