Saturday, August 15, 2009

Uranium mining claims under scrutiny

As President Obama arrives in Phoenix tonight for a visit to Grand Canyon National Park tomorrow, the battle over uranium exploration has taken a new direction. According to an AP report in the Arizona Republic, the U.S. Forest Service is now examining existing mining claims to determine if they are valid.

If not, it seems the Forest Service will deny the claims, leaving the lands to be added to the million acres of federal lands segregated (effectively withdrawn) from new mining claims.

Based on the news reports I've read, it sounds like the Forest Service is accepting arguments that exploration drilling should only be allowed if a company can prove the mineral (uranium in this case) is present in mineable quantities. Does this mean that claims can only be valid based only on the surface expression of a mineral deposit? This sounds like a very aggressive action by the USFS. If mining companies cannot do the exploration needed to prove up the mineral reserves before making major investments it could effectively end any mining on Forest lands. Will BLM follow suit? USFS is part of the Agriculture Dept, while BLM is in Interior.

Kris Hefton, with VANE Minerals [right, uranium exploration drill hole in so. Utah. Credit, VANE Minerals], talked about this at the last AZ Geological Society meeting a couple weeks ago, but it's now becoming clearer what the potential impacts of the Forest Service action could be. VANE's claims are the first to be targeted by USFS.

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