Stories like this really just grind my gears, because the way it is portrayed in the media is simply false.�� If you read any of the reports about the recent extension of a moratorium on mining (uranium mining included) in the Grand Canyon area, you’d think that the big bad uranium mining industry was hell bent on destroying one of the world’s natural wonders and was only stopped by the Obama Administration from doing so.
Obama rescues the Grand Canyon
Barack Obama took a big step towards preserving one of the world’s natural wonders on Monday, banning uranium mining on 400 000 hectares of land around the Grand Canyon.
The move, announced by the interior secretary, Ken Salazar, at a film screening in Washington DC, bans new mining claims around the canyon for the next 20 years. The area is rich in uranium deposits.
“A withdrawal is the right approach for this priceless American landscape,” Salazar said. “People from all over the country and around the world come to visit the Grand Canyon. Numerous American Indian tribes regard this magnificent icon as a sacred place and millions of people in the Colorado river basin depend on the river.”
Environmental groups said the move, which was opposed by the mining industry and some Republicans, would secure the American president’s environmental legacy.
The measure does not affect about 3 200 existing mining claims around the canyon, however. The administration said there would be continued development of 11 uranium mines.
Conservation groups said Obama had shown political courage in going ahead with the ban in the face of opposition. “Despite significant pressure, the president did not settle for a halfway measure,” said Jane Danowitz of the Pew Environment Group. In the final years of the George Bush presidency, when uranium prices were rising worldwide, mining companies filed thousands of claims in northern Arizona on lands near the Grand Canyon.
They also proposed reopening old mines adjacent to the canyon.
Salazar ordered a temporary halt to claims in 2009 after Obama came to office. Government officials proposed the 20-year ban in October last year, after an environmental review calling for the preservation of an “iconic landscape”.
The reality is that the Grand Canyon was never actually in any danger of being torn up for mining. That’s because the iconic expanse of canyon of eroded sandstone and river bed is located within the Grand Canyon National Park. It might depend a little on how you define the beginning and end of the canyon, but in general, the expansive “grand” part is all within the national park. Because it is within a national park, there can be no mining claims. The area is permanently and unquestionably protected and the only development and construction allowed is limited infrastructure for the park itself. (things like visitors centers, hiking trails and such.)
The park is enormous. It’s 1,902 sq mi or 4,927 sq km. It includes the canyon itself and much of the surrounding area. It was established as a National Monument in 1906 and has enjoyed the protection from commercial development of a US national park since 1919. There is absolutely no way that any part of that massive area will be mined for uranium or anything else.
The park is in Arizona, in a relatively sparsely inhabited region. Much of the area around the national park is federally administered land. As such, claims can be staked for mineral recovery. It’s not actually in the park and it’s certainly not in the canyon. It’s many miles away, but in the general region of the Grand Canyon. More than two thousand potential mining sites have been staked, many for uranium, as uranium can be found in the sandstone of the area. This is normal. Mining companies can, depending on the circumstances, claim or lease federal land for mineral recovery.
In 2009, it was proposed that a massive area that is only remotely close to the Grand Canyon be closed to mining. Now that decision has been extended, at least for the next twenty years. Vague environmental concerns are cited as the reason. There are already some long standing hard rock mines in the area, which apparently will still be allowed to operate.
I have to admit that I don’t actually have any expertise on this area or the eco-systems or whether it’s so unique or amazing as to make it worthy of complete protection from mining and development.�� However, it should be made clear that regardless of the validity of this decision, this is not the Grand Canyon and the Grand Canyon was never in danger of being destroyed by mines.
This entry was posted on Monday, January 16th, 2012 at 5:07 am and is filed under Bad Science, media, Not Even Wrong, Nuclear, Politics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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