US Supreme Court Upholds Grand Canyon Uranium-mining Ban

On Monday (October 1), the US Supreme Court ruled it would not hear arguments from uranium exploration and mining companies regarding overturning an Obama-era uranium mining ban in the Grand Canyon.

The mining ban, which was established by former US President Obama in 2012, aims to protect the aquifers and streams that feed the Colorado River and the Grand Canyon from mining runoff, uranium-mining pollution and water depletion.

The National Mining Association and the American Exploration and Mining Association, sought to overturn the 2012 Interior Department’s ban on the grounds it was based on an unconstitutional provision of the law.

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The mining industry along with a group of Republicans from Arizona and Utah had hoped this last ditch effort would work out in their favor. In December of 2017, the industry lost their challenge in San Francisco’s ninth circuit court of appeals, making Monday’s Supreme Court announcement the last legal avenue the miners could pursue.

The uranium mining ban imposed by the Obama administration is in place for 20 years, and covers approximately 4,045 square kilometers outside the boundaries of the national park.

The ban, which is in effect until 2032, sought to slow an onslaught of mining claims while scientific studies on the impact uranium mining poses for the Colorado river were assessed.

The major waterway provides some 30 million people with clean, drinking water.

“After an extensive review process and substantial public participation, the Department of the Interior’s original decision to protect one of the world’s most enduring landscapes, the Havasupai, and millions of visitors and downstream water users was a strong and appropriate one,” Kevin Dahl, of the National Parks Conservation Association, said in an announcement.

“We commend the Supreme Court for upholding the ban with this decision.”

The uranium mined in the US, U3O8, is primarily used to fuel nuclear reactors and is a critical component in the push to build green energy grids and cities.

Uranium production in the US has steadily declined year-over-year. In 2017, 1.2 million pounds were produced domestically, a 55 percent decrease from 2016.

Earlier this year, the Trump administration added uranium to a list of minerals and materials it would examine in relation to national security. Mining companies had hoped the uranium investigation would bode well for efforts to increase domestic production.

“Clearly, we’re disappointed,” Ashley Burke, a spokeswoman for the National Mining Association, told the Washington Post. “There continues to be great risk to our domestic supply chain thanks to unwarranted withdrawals like this.”

Now that all the legal avenues have been exhausted, the industry is hoping the Trump administration will subsidize the sector and demand more uranium is mined domestically.

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Securities Disclosure: I, Georgia Williams, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

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