Thursday, April 10, 2008

Uranium exploration halted outside Grand Canyon

Last week, a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order stopping VANE Minerals from drilling geologic core holes on locations in the Kaibab National Forest near the boundaries of the Grand Canyon National Park. The U.S. Forest Service had permitted the drill holes without a full environmental review, issuing instead a categorical exclusion because the work was considered preliminary with no certainty it would lead to an actual proposal to mine. Only a small percentage of exploration efforts lead to viable mineral resources being found and even fewer developed into mines. [above: VANE Minerals drill rig in North Wash area, southern Utah]

This kind of permitting is common, because so few exploratory core holes ever lead to actual mining operations. If mining were to be proposed following a successful exploratory drilling program, then the mining industry fully expects to go through the comprehensive environmental studies.

The judges ruling raises the question whether all mineral exploration activities may now be subject to multi-year reviews, effectively making most of it prohibitively expensive.

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