Appeals court upholds ban on new mining claims in Grand Canyon

By Ray Downs  |  Dec. 12, 2017 at 8:50 PM
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Dec. 12 (UPI) -- The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a ban on new uranium mining in the Grand Canyon on Tuesday, while also upholding a mining company's right to mine in the area since before the ban.

The case regarding new claims came from one Arizona man's response to a 20-year ban on new claims imposed in 2012 under then-Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. Gregory Yount challenged the ban despite not having ever mined uranium before and with no real plans to do so.

Yount gave several reasons for challenging the ban, including a First Amendment argument, in which he said protections in the area due to Native American beliefs were based on "archaic religious dogma." But the 9th Circuit dismissed those arguments and ruled that the interior secretary has a right to enforce mining bans on public lands.

"Appellants raise a myriad of challenges but in the end identify no legal principle invalidating the secretary's risk-averse approach," the ruling states. "As Interior concluded, withdrawal of the area from new mining claims for a limited period will permit more careful, longer-term study of the uncertain effects of uranium mining in the area and better-informed decision-making in the future."

However, the ban could be lifted by current Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, KNAU-TV reported.

In the other opinion released Tuesday, the 9th Circuit rejected the Havasupai Tribe's effort to evict companies that had mining rights since before the 2012 new claims ban. The Havasupai, who have lived at the bottom of the Grand Canyon for more than 800 years, argued that the U.S Forest Service violated the National Historic Preservation Act when it failed to consult with the tribe before granting uranium mining rights to mining companies, the Grand Canyon News reported.

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