Salazar 'confident' Grand Canyon uranium mining ban will withstand legal challenge

The groups also said that the administration “has provided no evidence in the record or in its environmental impact statement that a million-acre land grab is necessary to avoid environmental harm,” according to an NMA statement.

The Interior Department unveiled plans in January to ban new uranium mining on 1 million acres of federal land near the Grand Canyon for two decades.

The ban prevents new uranium mining claims in the region, but does not halt projects that have already been approved or have existing mining rights. Interior said the ban will allow scientists to monitor the effect of uranium mining on water quality.

Republicans and industry groups blasted the ban Monday, casting it as the latest attempt by the administration to block new domestic energy production.

But environmental groups applauded the ban, arguing it will protect drinking water in the region.

Numerous conservation groups — including the Center for Biological Diversity, Grand Canyon Trust and Sierra Club — said they would intervene in support of the administration’s ban. They will be represented by Earthjustice and the Western Mining Action Project.

“Uranium mining threatens the air, life-giving water and wildlife of the Grand Canyon area,” said Earthjustice attorney Ted Zukoski in a statement. “We’ll be there in court to help defend the reasonable protections that limit that damage.”