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The Interior Department is moving forward with a plan to ban new mining claims on 1 million acres near the Grand Canyon, which is known to contain high-grade uranium ore. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is expected to finalize a 20-year ban on new mining claims on public land surrounding the Grand Canyon at an event Monday in Washington.

The Center supports the ban because of the threat to the Colorado River. The Colorado River, which runs through the Grand Canyon, is the source of drinking water for 26 million Americans.

The mining industry and some Republican members of Congress called the ban detrimental to Arizona’s economy and the nation’s energy independence. Rep. Jeff Flake (RAriz.) and other GOP lawmakers are backing legislation to prevent Salazar from moving forward with the 20-year ban.

The ban would not affect more than 3,000 mining claims already staked in the area near the Grand Canyon. The Bush administration had opened up the land to new mining claims. Salazar reversed the Bush policy in 2009 and called for a two-year moratorium on new mining claims around the canyon. He followed up with a six-month extension last year.  (AP, Wash Post, 1/9/2012)