In recent years, uranium mining companies have staked thousands of claims near the Grand Canyon. Those companies claim the technology they use protects the Colorado River watershed, which is a key source of drinking water for the west, including populous Southern California. The river runs through the canyon.
But the federal government temporarily banned uranium extraction on a million acres surrounding the park so it could study just how much impact mining has on the environment and the economy. That moratorium was set to expire in July.
During a visit to the Grand Canyon on June 20th, Salazar told representatives from Indian tribes and neighboring communities that his agency needed a few more months to finish its study before making a long-term decision.
“Wisdom, caution and science should guide our protection of the Grand Canyon,” Salazar said. “We face a choice that could profoundly affect the Grand Canyon in ways we do not yet understand.”
“We don’t know what the intended and unintended consequences of large level uranium mining can have on the region and on the canyon and on the water,” said Grijalva, who has introduced a bill to permanently ban uranium mining near the national park.
In the meantime, a handful of operations are still allowed to mine.