Last week, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources voted on a bill introduced by Arizona Senators Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema to protect the Grand Canyon area from uranium mining. The committee vote on the bill ended in a tie and so the bill could next be brought to the Senate floor for a vote following a procedural vote to discharge the bill from the committee.
The Grand Canyon Protection Act, S. 387, would permanently prohibit new uranium mines around Grand Canyon National Park. The bill is needed to protect underground aquifers that provide water to springs inside the park and drinking water to Havasupai Tribal members who have lived in the Canyon for more than 800 years.
“The Grand Canyon is unique, it’s like no other place on the planet,” said Senator Kelly during the hearing. “Instead of damaging one of the world’s greatest natural wonders, we should develop other uranium reserves. The United States needs a secure and reliable source of uranium, but this area of northern Arizona accounts for a small fraction of our known uranium reserves.”
The bill was introduced last year by Kelly and Sinema, and received a hearing in the Senate Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests, and Mining last month. The legislation is widely supported by tribes, conservation advocates, local officials, businesses, veterans, and others in Arizona.
The transcript of Senator Kelly’s remarks are below:
Mr. Chairman, I would like to speak briefly on Agenda Item #3, the Grand Canyon Protection Act, and your Amendment #3 to the bill.
Senator Sinema and I introduced this bill, S.387, which would permanently prohibit uranium mining on approximately 1 million acres of federal land around Grand Canyon National Park.
Mining is an important part of Arizona’s history and a major contributor to our economy. At the same time, uranium mining around the Grand Canyon is a bad idea. It puts aquifers and springs inside the Park at risk. And it threatens the Havasupai Tribe, which has lived in the Canyon for more than 800 years.
Currently, there are hundreds of uranium mining claims in the area that could enter production as the price of uranium increases. We need, the United States needs, a secure and reliable source of uranium, but this area of northern Arizona accounts for a small fraction of our known uranium reserves. And the Grand Canyon is unique. It’s like no other place on the planet. Instead of damaging one of the world’s greatest natural wonders, we should develop other uranium reserves. And we can look to our ally Canada, which plans to ramp up production of high-grade uranium that is needed for advanced reactors.
And I support the amendment filed by the Chairman, Amendment #3, that resolves some concerns raised by the Administration about preserving sand and gravel resources in the area. The amendment would allow sand and gravel claims to be developed inside the mining withdrawal area, that million acres, but not inside Grand Canyon itself.
So I encourage my colleagues to vote in favor the bill and the amendment, because this is so important. I cannot stress enough how unique the Grand Canyon is and Grand Canyon National Park. And we do have other sources of uranium. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
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