Vane Minerals Plc challenged a 20-year ban on new uranium mining near the Grand Canyon, arguing in a lawsuit that the decision was based on political positions rather than scientific evidence.
The U.S. Department of the Interior’s decision to bar new mining on about 1 million acres of land “effectively deprived Vane of its investment in mining claims for uranium deposits,” according to the complaint filed in the U.S. Court of Claims in Washington. The canyon in Arizona is the second most-visited national park.
The ban also won’t do anything to advance the department’s goal of protecting the Grand Canyon watershed, lawyers for U.K.- based Vane wrote. They seek $123 million.
Then-Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar signed the ban on uranium and other hardrock mining in January 2012 at the National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington.
The withdrawal of lands from mining was part of an effort to protect the $3.5 billion spent annually by visitors to the park, Salazar said at the time.
Grand Canyon National Park was visited by 4.5 million people in 2010, second to the Great Smoky Mountains.
Jessica Kershaw, a spokeswoman for the Interior Department, declined to comment on the suit.
The ban doesn’t prohibit previously approved uranium mining, according to an Interior Department statement accompanying Salazar’s announcement.
Vane Minerals has 678, or 20.2 percent of the 3,350 mining claims located in the withdrawn land, according to Bureau of Land Management figures cited in the suit.
All of those claims are frozen by the ban, said Gary Urman, of DeConcini McDonald Yetwin & Lacy PC, of Tucson, Arizona, a lawyer for Vane.
Vane contends in the lawsuit that uranium mining can occur without harm to water supplies or other environmental damage.
The decision to impose the ban “disregarded the views of state and local governments, the public and scientific evidence,” according to the complaint.
The case is Vane Minerals LLC v. U.S. Department of the Interior, 13-cv-00413, U.S. Court of Federal Claims (Washington).