Mining industry trade groups today asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the Interior Department’s 20-year ban on new uranium mining claims on 1 million acres of public land adjacent to the Grand Canyon. The requests from the American Exploration and Mining Association and the National Mining Association come in response to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision last December, which upheld the Grand Canyon mineral withdrawal.
The Havasupai Tribe, Grand Canyon Trust, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity and National Parks Conservation Association intervened in the lawsuit in 2013 to defend Interior’s decision to protect Grand Canyon’s springs and creeks, wildlife, and vistas from new toxic uranium-mining pollution. The Tribe and conservation groups are represented by the public-interest law firms Earthjustice and Western Mining Action Project.
The mining industry’s petitions allege that the Interior secretary’s authority under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act to protect areas larger than 5,000 acres from mining is unconstitutional. A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit and U.S. District Court Judge David Campbell of Phoenix rejected that argument.
“This is an attack on the Grand Canyon region, which is bad enough,” said Ted Zukoski, an Earthjustice attorney representing the Havasupai Tribe and conservation groups. “It’s also a long-shot attempt to kneecap the Interior Department’s authority to ever again protect large public landscapes from the damage and pollution hardrock mining can have on recreation, cultural resources, wildlife, clean air and water, and the communities that rely on those values.”
Amber Reimondo, energy program director for the Grand Canyon Trust said, “We doubt the Supreme Court will take the case, but if it does, we look forward to defending it alongside the Interior Department, which touted its defense in the Ninth Circuit as a victory in Trump’s first year in office.”
“The public has repeatedly said that they don’t want uranium mining in the Grand Canyon watershed,” said Marc Fink, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This last-ditch attempt by the mining industry to overturn the ban doesn’t change that. Uranium mining simply doesn’t belong here, period.”
“Secretary Zinke knows that mineral withdrawals are a good tool to be used for his own backyard in Montana. We look forward to his support of a mineral withdrawal meant to protect the Grand Canyon, an iconic American treasure,” said Kevin Dahl, of National Parks Conservation Association.
The Supreme Court will review the petitions after the Havasupai Tribe and conservation groups have an opportunity to respond. The court could take the case for further review or reject the petitions and let the Ninth Circuit decision stand. The court denies more than 90 percent of the petitions it receives.