A House subcommittee met this week to discuss expanding a moratorium on uranium mining claims in and around the Grand Canyon.
Less than 48 hours after the Trump administration released a report on the country’s critical minerals dependence, a House subcommittee on natural resources met to discuss expanding a moratorium on uranium mining claims in and around the Grand Canyon.
The Obama-era legislation put through in 2012 prevents any new uranium mining claims from being granted for 20 years. The area shielded by the mining claim ban covers a million acres, including the Colorado River and the Grand Canyon.
In 2018, the federal government tried to appeal the ban, stating it is unconstitutional. However, the ruling was upheld by the Supreme Court in early October of that year.
As mentioned, the subcommittee’s move comes not long after the release of a US Department of Commerce report calling for increased domestic exploration and production of key and critical metals and minerals. While rare earths are believed to be the primary focus of the report, the official decree calls for the proliferation of uranium production as well.
“The new critical minerals plan from Interior Sec. Bernhardt is another effort to clear the way for more mining — no matter the cost,” said Lena Moffitt, a senior director at the Sierra Club. The environmental organization is in favor of increasing protection in the Grand Canyon area.
The initial uranium moratorium was enacted to assess the impact of uranium mining on the environment in the area and to protect waters and aquifers that supply 30 million people with drinking water.
“Already the Department of the Interior is exploring the mineral potential of lands now excluded from Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument,” Moffitt continued.
“We also know that the uranium industry helped drive the elimination of Bears Ears National Monument in Utah. Across the border, on the lands around the Grand Canyon, industry is pushing to get thousands of uranium mining claims back on the table, over the objections of the Havasupi and Navajo people.”
The US holds an estimated 47,200 tonnes of uranium in reserve, roughly 1 percent of global supply.
Uranium has had a rough start in 2019. The spot price opened the year with promise, sitting at US$28 per pound, but it was weighed down throughout Q1 and Q2. Fewer nuclear plants entering the operation phase and restraint from US buyers have kept prices depressed. The current U3O8 spot price is US$24.
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Securities Disclosure: I, Georgia Williams, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.