The Obama administration announced a 20-year ban on any new mining near the Grand Canyon National Park Monday, contrary to the Bush administration's former pursuit of 1 million acres of land in the area for (mostly) uranium mining.
Though uranium, used in nuclear reactors, is an important part of the administration's energy strategy, the risks of mining in this area are too high to pursue without a clearer understanding of its potential effects on the environment. The Colorado River, running through the canyon, supplies drinking water to some 26 million Americans and would be at risk of contamination. Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar also noted the importance of preserving America's most precious landscapes like this sacred American Indian land that attracts $3.5 billion per year in tourism.
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Despite pressure from the mining industry, the administration will allow current mining projects to continue while officials monitor the potential environmental impacts. Therefore, the 3,200 mining claims in the area will be unaffected, according to the Interior.
Of course, mining companies and Republicans are not happy with the ban, claiming that it will destroy jobs and is not backed by any evidence—but isn't that the point? Supporters of the ban say a minor increase in jobs isn't worth the risk of potentially devastating a crucial water supply or one of America's most visited parks.