Ban on uranium mining near Grand Canyon set to expire

National Park Service trail crew members prepare to repel down the side of a cliff while repairing a trail on June 10, 2009 in the Grand Canyon National Park, Ariz.

Steve Chiotakis: Uranium's going for about $52 a pound these days -- that's up five fold in the last ten years alone. And some of the richest uranium deposits just so happen to be on land surrounding the Grand Canyon. Well, a ban on new mining claims near the Canyon is set to expire next month.

From Flagstaff, Ariz., Laurel Morales has more.


Laurel Morales: Interior Secretary Ken Salazar wants to extend the ban for another 20 years. That's bad news for mining companies like Vane Minerals. Kris Hefton is Vane's chief operating officer.

Kris Hefton: The uranium deposits that have been found in northern Arizona are among the highest-grade deposits anywhere in the U.S.

Minerals experts estimate there's enough uranium on land surrounding Grand Canyon National Park to replace more than 13 billion barrels of imported crude oil with nuclear power.

Republican lawmakers have sponsored legislation that would allow mining to continue, but park officials worry about impacts on tourism.

Martha Hahn is with the national park. She says about four and a half million people visit the Grand Canyon each year.

Martha Hahn: Just the whole perception of potential contamination could deter them from coming to the park.

At the park, visitors can already see a plume and drill rig from one uranium mine that was grandfathered in before the temporary ban.

In Flagstaff, I'm Laurel Morales for Marketplace.

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