U.S. Court of Appeals to Hear Back-to-Back Cases on Uranium Mining Threats to the Grand Canyon Region, Thursday Dec. 15 in San Francisco
San Francisco — The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco will hear oral arguments Thursday, December 15 on two key cases involving uranium mining on public lands near Grand Canyon National Park.
In the first case, Havasupai Tribe v. Provencio, the Havasupai Tribe, Grand Canyon Trust, Center for Biological Diversity, and Sierra Club challenge the United States Forest Service’s decision to allow Energy Fuels Resources to reopen the Canyon uranium mine, which was initially approved in the 1980s and had been closed since 1992. The federal agency permitted this “zombie” mine to reopen without analyzing the mine’s environmental impacts in light of changed circumstances in the intervening quarter-century.
The Canyon Mine is located on the Kaibab National Forest, a few miles south of Grand Canyon National Park, and is within a one million acre area that was withdrawn from mining in 2012 due to concerns about uranium mining’s environmental and cultural threats to the Grand Canyon watershed.
Richard Hughes of Rothstein Donatelli LLP will argue on behalf of the Havasupai Tribe; Neil Levine of Grand Canyon Trust will argue on behalf of conservation groups.
The second case, National Mining Association v. Jewell, involves mining and uranium industries’ challenges to the Interior Department’s 20-year ban on new uranium mining claims on public lands adjacent to the Grand Canyon.
The ban was requested in 2008 by Arizona’s governor, local governments, American Indian tribes, recreationists, and conservation groups concerned about a uranium mining boom’s impact on groundwater, cultural resources, and the iconic landscapes surrounding the Grand Canyon. It was issued by then-Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in 2012. The U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona upheld the ban in two rulings, one in 2013 (decision here) and the other in 2014 (decision here), and the mining interests appealed.
The nonprofit law firm, Earthjustice, will represent the Havasupai Tribe, Grand Canyon Trust, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, and National Parks Conservation Association in defending the ban. Department of Justice attorneys will also defend the Interior Department’s decision.
What: Arguments in Havasupai Tribe v. Provencio and National Mining Association v. Jewell before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
Where: Courtroom 4, Room 260
James R. Browning U.S. Courthouse
95 Seventh St.
San Francisco, Calif.
When: Approximately 9:30 a.m. PST, Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016
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Contact: Roger Clark, Grand Canyon Trust, (928) 774-7488
Sandy Bahr, Sierra Club – Grand Canyon Chapter, (602) 253-8633
WASHINGTON D.C.— On June 21st, British uranium firm VANE Minerals sued the
United States in Washington’s U.S. Court of Claims over the Department of the
Interior’s January 2012 decision to protect 1 million acres of public lands around Grand
Canyon National Park from new uranium mining. VANE’s suit, which claims that
uranium mining in Grand Canyon’s watershed “would have no adverse impacts,” seeks
up to $132 million from U.S. taxpayers. This is VANE’s second attempt to bring such a
suit against the U.S.
“Leaders of the American Revolution would be horrified that British and foreign uranium
firms might one day threaten our cherished national park,” said Roger Clark, Grand
Canyon program director with Grand Canyon Trust, “and appalled that those companies
are now claiming monetary damages for imaginary profits lost to protect Grand
VANE’s case threatens both the Grand Canyon mineral withdrawal and future mineral
withdrawals to protect public lands. VANE seeks damages for mining claims it staked in
the 1 million-acre withdrawal area that lack valid existing rights to mine. The withdrawal
prohibits new mining claims and development on existing mining claims that lack valid
existing rights. If the court accepts Vane’s arguments, precedent may be established
that the Interior Department will face “takings” claims for any future withdrawal, even
where, as here, all valid existing mineral rights have been protected. Government
attorneys successfully moved to dismiss VANE’s first case making these claims in May.
“It is absolutely outrageous that a foreign mining corporation is seeking to pick the
pockets of the American taxpayers to the tune of $132 million because we are
protecting Grand Canyon’s watershed from destructive uranium mining,” said Sandy
Bahr, chapter director for the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon (Arizona) Chapter. “The
mineral withdrawal that prompted this lawsuit is strongly supported by Arizonans and
people throughout the country.”
On January 9, 2012, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar ordered a twenty-year
mineral withdrawal (the maximum allowed administratively) that prohibits new mining
claims and development on existing mining claims that lack valid existing rights. Vane
Minerals has not established valid existing rights for any of its mining claims in the
withdrawal area. The withdrawal was achieved through an unprecedented and formidable coalition of tribal, business, and civic leaders; hunting, fishing, ranching, and
conservation groups; geologists, hydrologists, water resource managers, wildlife
proponents, city, county, state, and federal elected officials; and hundreds of thousands
of individuals who commented favorably on the proposed moratorium. Uranium industry
attempts to overturn the withdrawal in Arizona’s federal district court have thus far
failed; tribes and conservation groups have intervened on the side of the government to
support the protections.
According to VANE Minerals’ website: “Since December 2004, VANE (US) LLC, a
wholly owned subsidiary of VANE, has aggressively acquired a uranium portfolio in the
US. VANE (US) LLC has built up a considerable portfolio of projects, covering both
strata-bound deposits in Utah and the unique high grade breccia pipe projects in
Northern Arizona, where on part of the district VANE has a 50/50 Joint venture
agreement with Uranium One Exploration (USA) (“U1”) in which, in general terms,
VANE does the exploration and U1 will do the mining.”
(http://www.vaneminerals.com/about/ accessed on 06/24/2013)
Uranium One’s website states: “Uranium One Inc. is a Canadian-based company and is
one of the world’s largest publicly traded uranium producers…. With a 51% ownership
stake, Uranium One’s major shareholder is JSC Atomredmetzoloto (ARMZ) which is a
wholly owned subsidiary of Rosatom, the Russian State Corporation for Nuclear
(http://www.uranium1.com/index.php/en/ accessed on 06/24/2013)