PRESS CONFERENCE: Chair Grijalva Will Join Tribal and Environmental Leaders on Tuesday to Speak on Protecting Grand Canyon From Uranium Mining

Washington, D.C. – Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) will join Native American, business and environmental leaders at a 12:15 p.m. press conference on Tuesday, June 4, at the House Triangle in Washington, D.C., to discuss the need to protect the Grand Canyon from new uranium mining claims.

The event comes a day ahead of Wednesday’s hearing at 10:00 a.m. Eastern time in the National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands Subcommittee on Grijalva’s H.R. 1373, the Grand Canyon Centennial Protection Act – a bill he introduced Feb. 26 to make permanent the current 20-year moratorium on new claims on approximately 1 million acres north and south of Grand Canyon National Park – and a separate effort by Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) to protect Chaco Culture National Historical Park from new oil and gas leases.

Tuesday’s event will feature Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-Ariz.), who represents the Grand Canyon, as well as other House lawmakers; speakers from the Navajo and Havasupai tribes; and local business and conservation leaders.

Grijalva’s bill has 88 House cosponsors and enjoys significant local, business, tribal and conservationist support. A timeline of his involvement in the issue, dating back more than a decade, is available at http://bit.ly/2EJenUM.

Uranium mining has done long-term damage to Native American communities’ water quality in and around the Grand Canyon. As The Guardian reported in 2017:

Companies extracted millions of tons of uranium across Navajo territory to supply demand for nuclear weapons during the cold war. Water sources were contaminated and clean-up of many old sites has been inadequate.

Disproportionate numbers of Navajo people have died prematurely of kidney failure and cancer, illnesses linked to uranium exposure, while government research has shown uranium in babies born now, according to reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This legacy of contamination drove then-Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in 2012 to announce a 20-year moratorium on new mining claims over approximately 1 million acres in two units north and south of the Grand Canyon. Grijalva’s new bill makes that withdrawal permanent.

Formally, the bill removes the moratorium area from the jurisdiction of the Mining Law of 1872 and the Mineral Leasing Act, meaning that no new claims could be made for locatable minerals (such as gold, silver, copper, uranium or other precious metals), and no new leases could be issued for leasable minerals (such as oil, gas, coal and phosphate).

While existing claims inside the moratorium area will remain, owners would have to perform what is known as a validity determination in order to keep them, which requires a demonstration that a mining claim contains extractable mineral deposits in a concentration that can be mined profitably. Owners would also have to demonstrate that they intend to conduct mining operations on those claims, which would resolve longstanding disputes over claims that sit idle without generating meaningful economic activity.

As Chair of the Natural Resources Committee, Grijalva has primary jurisdiction over the bill.


Where: House Triangle outside the U.S. Capitol

When: 12:15 p.m. Eastern time on Tuesday, June 4


  • Chairman Raúl M. Grijalva
  • The Honorable Tom O’Halleran, Representative, Arizona’s 1st Congressional District
  • The Honorable Debra Haaland, Representative, New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District
  • The Honorable Carletta Tilousi, Councilwoman, Havasupai Tribe
  • The Honorable Myron Lizer, Vice President, Navajo Nation
  • Sandy Bahr, Arizona Chapter Director, The Sierra Club
  • Nathan Rees, Arizona Coordinator, Trout Unlimited
  • Brian Stultz, Stewardship Director, Arizona Wilderness Coalition
  • Amber Reimondo, Energy Program Director, The Grand Canyon Trust

Press Contact

Media Contact: Adam Sarvana

(202) 225-6065 or (202) 578-6626 mobile