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Report: More Than 800 New Mining Claims Crowd Border of Grand Canyon National Park

For Immediate Release: 
Thursday, August 16, 2007

WASHINGTON, D.C. - A report released by the Environmental Working Group today shows an 80 percent increase in uranium, gold and other mining claims in 12 western states over the past five years, including an explosion of uranium claims near the edge of Grand Canyon National Park.

According to the report, "Mining Law Threatens Grand Canyon, Other National Treasures", mining interests and speculators have staked 815 claims within five miles of Grand Canyon National Park, 805 of them since January 2003. Across the West, more than 50,000 claims were staked from last September to this May alone. The proliferation of claims in Colorado and Utah has been especially staggering, with a more than 200 percent jump overall since 2003.

High prices for uranium and other metals sparked by growing worldwide demand has helped fuel the surge in claims, but the source of the threat is an antiquated federal statute that remains fundamentally unchanged since it was signed by Ulysses S. Grant in 1872. The law provides special status to mining on many public lands, almost always giving it priority over every other form of recreation and conservation.

"The global economy has created a modern day land rush in the American West, while our outdated mining law leaves federal land managers with the legal equivalent of a pick and shovel in their efforts to protect our national parks," said EWG Public Lands Analyst Dusty Horwitt. "In effect, this means that speculative Chinese demand for nuclear fuel has more influence over the fate of mining in the American West than the people who work and live there."

The 1872 mining law allows mining companies, foreign and domestic, to take valuable resources from public lands without taxpayer compensation, unlike oil, gas and coal industries that have been paying royalties to the federal treasury since the 1920s. In addition, estimates indicate taxpayers will need to pay $32 billion or more to clean up toxic waste released by the industry.

"Our national parks are threatened by a law written before the light bulb was invented," said Jane Danowitz, Director of the Pew Campaign for Responsible Mining. "The surge of new claims within a stone's throw of the Grand Canyon and other national treasures should serve as a wake-up call to Congress that it's high time to modernize this antiquated law."

Next week, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, chaired by Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA), will hold a field hearing on H.R. 2262, the Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of 2007. The bill represents a new bipartisan effort, lead by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick Rahall (D-WV), to modernize the 1872 mining law.

Today representatives of the Environmental Working Group and the Pew Campaign for Responsible Mining discussed findings that show that 10 of the West's national parks, including Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite and Death Valley, are at new and growing risk as mining claims cluster around their boundaries. An MP3 audio file of this call will be available by 4:00 p.m. EDT today at http://www.PewMiningReform.org.


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