WASHINGTON – The Obama administration is banning new hard rock mining on more than a million acres near the Grand Canyon, an area known to be rich in high-grade uranium ore reserves.
The decision, announced Monday by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, hands a victory to environmental groups and some Democratic lawmakers who had worked for years to limit mining near the national park, one of the nation’s most popular tourist destinations.
The area near the Grand Canyon contains as much as 40 percent of the nation’s known uranium resources, worth tens of billions of dollars.
The decision imposes a 20-year ban on new mining claims on federal land near the Grand Canyon. About 3,000 mining claims already staked in the area will not be affected, although officials expect fewer than a dozen mines to be developed under existing claims.
Uranium is used in nuclear power plants, which supply about 20 percent of the nation’s electricity.
The national park attracts more than 4 million visitors a year and generates an estimated $3.5 billion in economic activity.