WASHINGTON, D.C.—Earlier this week, U.S. Sens. John McCain, Jon Kyl, Orrin Hatch, Mike Lee and John Barrasso introduced the Northern Arizona Mining Continuity Act of 2011. This legislation is a response to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s announcement last June that he would withdraw approximately one million acres outside the Grand Canyon National Park from mining for a 20-year period. The legislation would prohibit Salazar’s action and allow environmentally responsible uranium mining of some of the highest-grade uranium reserves in the United States. Following is a statement from Alex Flint, the Nuclear Energy Institute’s senior vice president for governmental affairs:
“The Obama Administration has proposed to withdraw one million acres of northern Arizona land from uranium mining for 20 years despite the unequivocal findings in its own Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) that uranium mining poses little, if any, threat to the region. We applaud the efforts of the Senators to preserve access to some of the highest-grade uranium resources in the United States. These resources could represent as much as 375 million pounds of uranium, approximately twice current world demand and more than seven times current U.S. demand.
“The high-grade uranium resources in northern Arizona are found in ‘breccia pipe’ formations. These are highly compact formations that can be developed with minimal environmental impact. In its comments on the Interior Department’s draft environmental impact statement, the Arizona Land Department said: ‘[T]he DEIS reveals nothing in the recent history of mining the breccia pipes in northern Arizona … that would appear to justify any withdrawal. Going back to the start of the Hack Mine complex in 1981, there has been no incident or event during this 30-year period that would … warrant a withdrawal.’
“Interior Secretary Salazar’s decision to fence off one million acres for 20 years is particularly troublesome since his own agency’s DEIS finds no reason to do so. The Bureau of Land Management’s DEIS considered potential impacts on air emissions, water resources, soil resources, vegetation, fish and wildlife, wilderness resources, and recreation and tourism. In general, the DEIS found either no impact or minor, temporary impacts that could be readily mitigated.
“The legislation proposed by the Senators from Arizona, Utah and Wyoming would prevent a miscarriage of public policy. Their efforts deserve strong support from all Americans who believe that public policy-making should have a factual basis and be based on sound science.”