BLM Logo
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT NEWS RELEASE
 
Release Date: 10/26/11
Contacts: Dennis Godfrey and Deborah Stevens, (602) 417-9504    
  Rachel Tueller, (435) 688-3200    

BLM Issues Final Environmental Impact Statement for Proposed Withdrawal from New Mining Claims near Grand Canyon


St. George, Utah – The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) today released the Northern Arizona Proposed Withdrawal Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for public review. The Final EIS analyzes the potential effects of withdrawing federal lands near the Grand Canyon in Arizona from location and entry under the 1872 Mining Law and identifies a preferred alternative that would withdraw about 1 million acres, subject to valid existing rights.

A withdrawal would prevent individuals and companies from staking new mining claims; however, currently approved operations could continue and new operations could be approved on valid existing mining claims. Uranium, like oil and gas, solar, wind, geothermal and other resources, remains a vital component of a responsible and comprehensive energy plan for the United States.  In addition to possible development of any valid existing claims on any lands that are withdrawn, other federal lands in Arizona and other parts of the country remain open to hardrock mining claims, including those for uranium.

“The Grand Canyon is an iconic place for all Americans and visitors from around the world,” said BLM Director Bob Abbey. “Uranium remains an important part of our nation’s comprehensive energy resources, but it is appropriate to pause, identify what the predicted level of mining and its impacts on the Grand Canyon would be, and decide what level of risk is acceptable to take with this national treasure. The preferred alternative would allow for cautious, continued development with strong oversight that could help us fill critical gaps in our knowledge about water quality and environmental impacts of uranium mining in the area.”

In June 2011, based on BLM analysis that began in 2009 and nearly 300,000 comments from the public, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar directed BLM to identify the preferred alternative in the EIS as Alternative B, the Proposed Action, which would withdraw about 1 million acres of federal  land in the vicinity of the Grand Canyon for 20 years from the 1872 Mining Law, subject to valid existing rights. The Final EIS estimates that as many as 11 uranium mines could be operational over the next 20 years under the preferred alternative, including the four mines currently approved.

The BLM is the lead agency that, in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Park Service, prepared the Final EIS, which will be used to support a final decision by the Secretary of the Interior on the proposed withdrawal. The Final EIS responds to hundreds of thousands of public comments on the Draft EIS released to the public on Feb. 18, 2011 http://www.blm.gov/az/st/en/prog/mining/timeout/deis.html, and discloses the potential impacts that withdrawing the lands from location and entry under the 1872 Mining Law would have on the environment and natural and cultural resources.

In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act regulations, a notice published by the Environmental Protection Agency in tomorrow’s Federal Register initiates a 30-day review period after which the Secretary of Interior can make and issue a final decision.

In addition to analyzing the potential impacts of the Proposed Action, the Final EIS has analyzed three other alternatives to the proposed action. In all of the alternatives, any withdrawal would be subject to valid existing rights.

The four alternatives analyzed are:

Alternative A is the No Action Alternative, under which no withdrawal would occur and mineral exploration and mining would continue throughout the study area in accordance with existing BLM and Forest Service regulations and land use plans.
 
Alternative B is the Proposed Action, which is to withdraw approximately 1,006,545 acres of federal lands from location and entry under the 1872 Mining Law for 20 years, while allowing previously approved operations to continue and new operations to be authorized on mining claims with valid existing rights. The federal lands are located in three parcels, two parcels north of the Grand Canyon National Park on BLM Arizona Strip lands and the North Kaibab Ranger District of the Kaibab National Forest, and one south of the Grand Canyon on the Tusayan Ranger District of the Kaibab National Forest. The proposed action would not affect disposition or development of the lands under  the mineral leasing, geothermal leasing, mineral materials, or public land laws.
 
Alternative C is to withdraw a reduced acreage within the same three parcels amounting to approximately 648,802 acres of federal lands from location and entry under the 1872 Mining Law for 20 years. As with the Proposed Action, mining could continue at previously-approved mines and new operations could be authorized on mining claims with valid existing rights. This alternative would withdraw the largest contiguous area identified on resource location maps with concentrations of cultural, hydrologic, recreational, visual, and biological resources, which could be adversely affected by locatable mineral exploration and mining. As with the Proposed Action, Alternative C would not prevent disposition or development under the mineral leasing, geothermal leasing, mineral materials, or public land laws.

Alternative D is to withdraw a further reduced acreage within the same three parcels amounting to 292,086 acres from location and entry under the 1872 Mining Law. As with the Proposed Action, mining could continue at previously-approved mines and new operations could be authorized on mining claims with valid existing rights. This alternative would withdraw the contiguous area identified on resource location maps where there is the highest concentration of overlapping cultural, hydrologic, recreational, visual, and biological resources, which could be adversely affected by locatable mineral exploration and mining. As with the Proposed Action, Alternative D would not prevent disposition or development under the mineral leasing, geothermal leasing, mineral materials, or public land laws.

Information can be found at http://www.blm.gov/az/st/en/prog/mining/timeout.html or by calling (602) 417-9504 or (435) 688-3200.



The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land, the most of any Federal agency. This land, known as the National System of Public Lands, is primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The BLM's mission is to manage and conserve the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations under our mandate of multiple-use and sustained yield. In Fiscal Year 2013, the BLM generated $4.7 billion in receipts from public lands.
--BLM--

  One North Central Ave., Suite 800      Phoenix, AZ 85004-4427  

Last updated: 01-08-2014