“I am calling a two-year ‘Time-Out’ from all new mining claims in the Arizona Strip near the Grand Canyon,” said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, “because we have a responsibility to ensure we are developing our nation’s resources in a way that protects local communities, treasured landscapes, and our watersheds,” said Secretary Salazar.
Nearly one million acres of federal lands near the Grand Canyon have been set apart for deliberation for the next two years after careful consideration by the Department of Interior. Over the next two years, the Department of Interior will evaluate the land to determine whether it should be removed from new mining claims for the an additional twenty years.
“Over the next two years, we will gather the best science and input from the public, members of Congress, tribes, and stakeholders, and we will thoughtfully evaluate whether these lands should be withdrawn from new mining claims for a longer period of time,” Salazar said.
Included in the nearly-one-million acres of land are sections managed by the BLM (633,547 acres) and the U.S. Forest Service (360,002 acres). The lands rest within portions of the Grand Canyon watershed next to Grand Canyon National Park in northern Arizona and contain significant environmental and cultural resources as well as substantial uranium deposits.
Segregating the lands has essentially the same effect as a withdrawal, prohibiting new claims in the designate area. However, segregation nor withdrawal has any effect on valid pre-existing claims – meaning that the Interior cannot prohibit ongoing or future mining exploration or extraction operations on pre-existing claims.
About 10,600 mining claims are located in the proposed withdrawal area and several current uranium mining operations await State of Arizona environmental permits. Neither the segregation nor the proposed withdrawal would prohibit any other authorized uses on these lands.
With the announcement of the proposed withdrawal, the lands will be immediately segregated for further review. The segregation also opens a 90-day public comment period. During the two year segregation, studies and analyses will be conducted to determine if the lands should be withdrawn to protect the area from new mining claims.
After it is determined that the land should be withdrawn, the Department can withdraw these lands for up to 20 years. Only Congress can withdraw lands permanently.
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