PRESCOTT, Ariz. (CN) - Mining restrictions near the Grand Canyon are unconstitutional and damaging to the regional economy, uranium industry advocates say in Federal Court.
In January, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar withdrew large portions of northern Arizona's Kaibab National Forest and other public lands north of Grand Canyon National Park from new hard-rock mining claims for 20 years. The decision did not affect existing and previously approved uranium mines, leaving more than 3,000 existing mining claims in the withdrawal area.
The National Mining Association and the Nuclear Energy Institute sued the U.S. Department of Interior and others Monday to immediately vacate the move.
"This withdrawal imposes immediate and substantial delays and costs on existing mining claimants, results in the potential loss of mining claims, deprives claimants of the value of their investments, reduces U.S. production of uranium, and reduces employment and revenue in northern Arizona," the lawsuit claims.
National Mining Association President and CEO Hal Quinn called the withdrawal an illegal "land grab."
"The secretary's million-acre land withdrawal is constitutionally invalid," Quinn said in statement. "Further, DOI has provided no evidence in the record or in its environmental impact statement that a million-acre land grab is necessary to avoid environmental harm; it has inadequately analyzed the economic impact of its actions; and the department has failed to rigorously evaluate the 'no action' alternative required by NEPA [National Environmental Policy Act]."
The Center for Biological Diversity, Grand Canyon Trust, Sierra Club, Earthjustice and Western Mining Action Project - groups that spearheaded the withdrawal effort - said that they would intervene in the lawsuit on behalf of the government.
"Uranium mining threatens the air, life-giving water and wildlife of the Grand Canyon area," Earthjustice staff attorney Ted Zukoski said in a statement. "We'll be there in court to help defend the reasonable protections that limit that damage."
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