The Obama administration just announced a 20-year federal ban "on new mining claims affecting a million acres near the Grand Canyon, an area known to be rich in high-grade uranium ore reserves," as The Associated Press writes.
And "in doing so," the wire service adds, "the administration brushed off pressure from congressional Republicans and mining industry figures who wanted a policy change."
In a statement, Interior says that Secretary Ken Salazar's decision "will provide adequate time for monitoring to inform future land use decisions in this treasured area, while allowing currently approved mining operations to continue as well as new operations on valid existing mining claims."
"We have been entrusted to care for and protect our precious environmental and cultural resources, and we have chosen a responsible path that makes sense for this and future generations," Salazar says in that statement.
But, as the AP writes, "Republican members of Arizona's congressional delegation have lambasted temporary bans imposed by Salazar in 2009 and again last year. They say a ban on the filing of new mining claims would eliminate hundreds of jobs and unravel decades of responsible resource development."
Meanwhile, "environmental groups call the ban a long-awaited but decisive victory, noting that the Colorado River, which runs through the Grand Canyon, is the source of drinking water for 26 million Americans."
According to Interior's statement:
"The withdrawal does not prohibit previously approved uranium mining, new projects that could be approved on claims and sites with valid existing rights. The withdrawal would allow other natural resource development in the area, including mineral leasing, geothermal leasing and mineral materials sales, to the extent consistent with the applicable land use plans. Approximately 3,200 mining claims are currently located in the withdrawal area."