Mining industry groups last week asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a ban on new uranium mining claims near the Grand Canyon. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports, the Obama-era order was designed to protect the watershed on more than a million acres.
The decision by then-Interior Secretary Ken Salazar outlaws new uranium claims until 2032. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ban last year, but two mining organizations say the original order was unconstitutional.
Laura Skaer is the executive director of the American Exploration and Mining Association.
"If the Supreme Court agrees with us then only Congress will be able to withdraw large tracts of land from mineral entry … So the Secretary of the Interior would no longer be able to make withdrawals greater than 5,000 acres," Skaer says.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the U.S. Forest Service, recommended overturning the ban last year, as the Trump administration seeks to boost energy production on public lands.
The Havasupai Tribe and several environmental groups, however, say the moratorium is crucial to protect the area’s environment, indigenous lands and public health.