Biden expected to permanently block mining in the Grand Canyon through a new national monument

The memorial would protect about 1 million acres.

(John Locher | AP Photo) The sun sets over the Colorado River at Guano Point on the Hualapai Reservation in northwestern Arizona on Monday, August 15, 2022.

According to three people familiar with the matter, President Joe Biden is likely to announce the creation of a new national monument as early as next week to protect about 1 million acres of land around the Grand Canyon from uranium mining.

Senior officials in the Biden administration have spoken to Native Americans, environmental groups and members of Arizona’s congressional delegation in recent weeks, and some of those individuals have been told to prepare for “a possible announcement” when Biden visits Arizona next week. The three people familiar with the matter asked not to be named to discuss internal deliberations.

Abdullah Hasan, a White House spokesman, said final decisions on the monument’s designation have not yet been made.

The area in question is already banned for uranium mining, as President Barack Obama declared in 2011. However, these protective measures are scheduled to expire in 2032. If Biden were to designate the country as a national monument, those terms would be permanent.

Ashley Burke, spokeswoman for the National Mining Association, which represents US mining companies, said a moratorium on uranium mining around the Grand Canyon would hurt the economy and force the United States to import the metal.

Native American tribes have long lobbied for the government to permanently protect the area from uranium mining, which they say would damage the Colorado River watershed and areas of great cultural importance to Native Americans.

Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Arizona, has promoted legislation to erect such a monument since the Obama administration. That year, he co-sponsored a bill with independent Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema that would designate nearly 1.2 million acres as Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni Grand Canyon National Monument.

Baaj Nwaavjo means “where tribes roam” to the Havasupai tribe and I’tah Kukveni means “our footprints” to the Hopi tribe.

The erection of a memorial would be the latest in a series of measures to protect sacred land to Native Americans, an initiative led by Home Secretary Deb Haaland, the first Native American cabinet secretary. The new protections follow decades of tribal desires.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

Justin Scaccy

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