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For Immediate Release: 9/17/09

Statement of Cathy Carlson, EARTHWORKS' Policy Advisor,
on public lands uranium leasing in the
Consolidated Land, Energy, and Aquatic Resources Act of 2009

Washington, D.C.– EARTHWORKS applauds Chairman Rahall for his continuing efforts to address the most egregious abuses under the Mining Law of 1872. Section 511 of the Consolidated Land, Energy, and Aquatic Resources Act of 2009 would convert uranium from a locatable mineral under the General Mining Law of 1872 to a leasable mineral under the Mineral Leasing Act.

Uranium is used primarily for nuclear fuel, and should be subject to the discretion and oversight of a leasing program by the Secretary of the Interior, just like oil and gas and coal development on federal lands. Uranium development in the West polluted surface and ground water and left a toxic legacy in some communities. We hope that by moving uranium to a leasing system, only public lands that are truly suitable for uranium mining will be leased, while Native American communities and sacred sites and National Forests around the Grand Canyon National Park will be protected from further uranium development.

Also, under the Mineral Leasing Act, uranium mining companies will have to pay a fair royalty to the taxpayer for the extraction of this valuable mineral from federal lands, unlike the current system under the 1872 Mining Law, where they take the minerals for free.

While moving uranium to a leasing system is a step in the right direction, mineral development on our federal lands will never fully protect communities and the environment until the outdated 1872 Mining Law is reformed. We hope to work with Chairman Rahall, Senator Bingaman and Secretary Salazar to reform the 1872 Mining Law in the coming year.