On March 28, 2017, President Trump signed an executive order asking federal agencies to review policies “that potentially burden the development or use of domestically produced energy resources, with particular attention to oil, natural gas, coal, and nuclear energy resources.” Last week, the National Forest Service released its own report with 15 recommended agency changes to comply with the order.
Among them: bring back Uranium mining in land near the Grand Canyon.
The policy change would reverse an order made by the Obama administration in 2012, banning Uranium mining or the exploration of Uranium mining in the one million-acre watershed around the national park for 20 years.
Conservationists are furious, in particular Native American tribes whose land would be most affected if the recommendation goes through.
“This is a dangerous industry that is motivated by profit and greed with a long history of significantly damaging lands and waters. 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,” Don E. Watahomigie, the Havasupai tribal chairmen said in a joint statement released by Center for Biological Diversity last week.
Part of the argument against opening the land back up to mining is that the country currently is not ramping up nuclear production and thus, currently has little if not any need for Uranium in the first place.
The Forest Service report acknowledges this, stating that on the lands it manages, “No production of minerals from which nuclear energy is derived is presently occurring, although some exploration and development work is underway.”
In addition, part of Trump’s executive order asked environmental agencies to find ways to save money. In it’s list of 15 recommendations, the Forest Service actually admits that opening Uranium mining in the region could increase costs.
“Adoption and implementation of this recommendation could cause the agencies to incur costs to re-examine existing mineral data, evaluate potential withdrawal boundary changes, revise legal descriptions, and satisfy environmental analysis and public notice requirements,” the report says.
Regardless, if any changes occur in the area, they likely will not happen for a while. A spokesperson from the Forest Service told the Phoenix New Times there is currently no immediate plan to implement the mining recommendation.
The report stresses that 12 other recommendation are of greater importance to the agency, including getting rid of fees to conduct geophysical surveys on its lands and internal efficiencies to speed up the amount of time it takes to review proposals by energy companies.