Conservationists Slam Attempt to Overturn New Uranium Claim Moratorium

(KCPW News) Conservation groups are slamming an attempt by Utah and Arizona lawmakers to overturn the Interior Department’s moratorium on new uranium mining claims near the Grand Canyon. David Nimkin, Southwest Regional Director for the National Parks Conservation Association, disagrees with their idea that mining decisions should be left up to Congress, not Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

“It was open, it was transparent,” he tells KCPW. “He absolutely has the authority to do it, and he absolutely followed the script and provided the foundation for his decision.”

Senator Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee, along with Congressman Rob Bishop, are all co-sponsoring a bill to overturn the moratorium, saying Salazar’s decision kills jobs.

But Nimkin says the lawmakers should take a closer look at where the mining would take place, noting the Grand Canyon boosts the local economy by $690 million dollars each year and adds 12,000 full time jobs.

“There have been examples from an existing uranium mine that was closed down about 20 years ago in the Grand Canyon. that the drainage from that mine into Horn Creek, there are signs posted that say ‘contaminated, radioactive, do not drink water from this creek,'” says Nimkin.

Salazar’s decision did not impact valid existing uranium mining claims in the Arizona Strip, or drilling for oil, gas and coal.