WASHINGTON (CN) – The Trump administration may undo a 20-year ban on uranium mining near the Grand Canyon, a policy set by former President Barack Obama.
The recommendation from the U.S. Forest Service came Wednesday after President Donald Trump ordered federal agencies to review all actions that may impede the creation or use of energy resources originating in the United States. Those resources include oil, wind, uranium, coal and water.
“Adoption of this recommendation could re-open lands to mineral entry pursuant to the United States mining laws facilitating exploration for, and possibly development of, uranium resources,” the Forest Service report states.
The Obama-era mining ban, enacted in 2012, was written to protect tribal resources and drinking water and the wildlife corridor and habitat threatened by uranium contamination. More than 1 million acres of public land near the Grand Canyon were withdrawn from all underground mining under the Obama order, though pre-existing mining claims were allowed to continue their operations.
While the Trump administration’s recommendation lays the groundwork for new business opportunities, many environmental, tribal and Grand Canyon advocacy groups are troubled.
“This appalling recommendation threatens to destroy one of the world’s most breathtakingly beautiful regions to give free handouts to the mining industry,” Allison Melton, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. “The Trump administration’s willingness to sacrifice our natural treasures to polluters knows no bounds.”
The Havasupai Tribe, who live within the Grand Canyon, has fought against uranium mining near the national park due to fears its water supply could be contaminated.
“This is a dangerous industry that is motivated by profit and greed with a long history of significantly damaging lands and waters,” Havasupai Tribal Chairman Don E. Watahomigie said in a statement. “They are now seeking new mines when this industry has yet to clean up the hundreds of existing mines all over the landscape that continue to damage our home. We should learn from the past, not ignore it.”
U.S. uranium is at its lowest price in years, which has both signified and contributed to the current lull in the domestic uranium mining industry.
Federal regulations for mining and transporting uranium have increased the safety surrounding uranium production since many past mines were abandoned, but that hasn’t stopped environmental and tribal opposition.
Recently, a mine opening near Flagstaff, Ariz. sparked citizen and city official-backed opposition to uranium being transported through their city and the rest of the state. Increased access to new uranium mining deposits in the Grand Canyon would only increase uranium mining companies’ need for open hauling routes.
“The Grand Canyon and the people and communities that depend on it cannot be left to bear the risks of unfettered uranium mining, which is what will happen if the moratorium is removed,” said Amber Reimondo with the Grand Canyon Trust.