On Saturday U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva, who is also Chair of the Natural Resources Committee, unveiled a proposal that would stop all future mining projects near the Grand Canyon.
Building off former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's 20-year moratorium on new mining claims over about 1 million acres of public land that sit north and south of the Grand Canyon, Grijalva, a Tucson Democrat, wants to make the mining ban permanent through legislation.
The bill, called the Grand Canyon Centennial Protection Act, has been introduced by Grijalva in the past, but could see success this year in the House with a new Democratic majority. As chair, Grijalva will have primary jurisdiction over his own bill during the legislative process.
If passed, the bill would remove the acres in question from the jurisdiction of the Mining Law of 1872 and the Mineral Leasing Act, which means that no new claims could be made for "locatable" minerals (gold, silver, copper, uranium and other precious metals) and no new leases could be made for "leasable" minerals (oil, gas, coal and phosphate), according to a press release from Grijalva's office. Existing claims within the area would remain, but owners would have to demonstrate that their claim is still profitable and they intend to conduct mining operations.
This move is endorsed by several Indigenous communities in Arizona, including Hopi, Navajo, Havasupai and Hualapai members, who have spoken out about the harmful effects mining has on the environment and their quality of life. In the past, uranium mines have sickened and killed tribal members
who live near the Grand Canyon.
Just last week, the Arizona Republic reported
that uranium ore, improperly stored in three paint buckets on the floor of a Grand Canyon museum building, put thousands of park visitors, including young children, at risk of radiation exposure.
Grijalva is expected to formally introduce the Grand Canyon Centennial Protection Act in the House tomorrow, which is the 100-year anniversary of the Grand Canyon National Park's establishment.