Statement of Jane Danowitz, Director, Pew Campaign for Responsible Mining, on House Natural Resources Committee Vote to Withdraw Grand Canyon Lands from Mining

Contact: Elyssa Rosen, 775.224.7497


Washington, DC - 06/25/2008 - Jane Danowitz, Director, Pew Campaign for Responsible Mining, today issued the following statement on the House Natural Resources Committee voting to withdraw Grand Canyon lands from mining. The vote will compel U.S. Secretary of Interior Kempthorne to withdraw more than 1 million acres from new mining claims that are fast encroaching on the Grand Canyon and other national parks, enabled by high metals prices and the 1872 mining law that gives hardrock mining priority on most public lands in the West.

"Extraordinary circumstances require extraordinary measures, and today's commendable vote to protect the Grand Canyon is no exception. With soaring numbers of new mining claims approaching the park's borders and the Senate's inaction on 1872 mining law reform, not even the Grand Canyon, arguably our nation's most recognized natural treasure, is safe from the arcane 1872 law.

"Chairman Grijalva and members of the House Natural Resources Committee rose to the occasion with today's critical stopgap measure. It is now up to the Senate to roll up its sleeves and pass a reasonable mining reform bill."

Background:

  • In the latest annual Toxic Release Inventory from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, mining had the largest increase - 47 million pounds - of any industry in toxic releases and disposal. The top five most polluting facilities in the United States are all related to hardrock mining.
  • In the second half of 2007, new claims increased 40 percent within 5 miles of national parks. Grand Canyon is particularly vulnerable. Claims have increased every year since 2003, when there were 50 claims within 5 miles of the park boundary. As of January 2008 there were more than 1100, according to the Bureau of Land Management. The uranium boom is creating new concern for Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and the State of Arizona. View letters from:

  • Since the last time Congress seriously addressed this issue - more than a decade ago - support for reform has intensified. More than a dozen mining-related sites have been placed on the Superfund list since then, and growing numbers of communities across the West have faced mining bankruptcies and toxic pollution.
  • Last November, the House passed H.R. 2262, the Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of 2007. Western lawmakers and stakeholders from the outdoor recreation industry, sportsmen, conservation and taxpayer groups have been working on behalf of a reasonable reform package that would end the sale of public land at bargain basis prices, set sensible royalties to help fund abandoned mine clean up and provide safeguards to protect water quality, wildlife habitat and national treasures, like the Grand Canyon. No comprehensive mining reform bill has been introduced in the Senate. See The New York Times piece The Case for Mining Law Reform that ran on Monday, June 23.

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