Lawsuit draws line in sand over mining ban

19 April 2012

Mineral exploration company Quaterra Resources and the governing body of Mohave County in Arizona have filed a joint lawsuit against the US government in an attempt to overturn the withdrawal of federal lands from mining.

Arizona Strip (Quaterra)_200
Quaterra has spent $12 million on exploration in the Arizona Strip (Image: Quaterra)

The suit filed on behalf of Quaterra and the Board of Supervisors of Mohave County against the US Department of the Interior, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and its director Robert Addey, claims that the US government did not adhere to mandated statutory procedures when it issued a decision to close the land in northern Arizona to all mining in January. It alleges that the withdrawal, regardless of evidence that mining would not harm the Grand Canyon was "arbitrary and capricious".

Amongst other considerations, the suit also alleges that Salazar did not comply with requirements under the National Environmental Policy Act in making the decision. Similar contentions were made in a lawsuit against the withdrawal filed in February by the National Mining Association (NMA) and the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI).

Quaterra holds 1000 mineral claims in the Arizona Strip where it says it has spent almost $12 million on exploration and development work. It has discovered three uranium mineralised breccia pipes and nine other pipe structures that are probable or possible hosts for uranium mineralisation. The company claims it had enjoyed a high success rate in initial exploration of seven targets in the now withdrawn federal lands where it had already staked a further 200 targets.

Meanwhile, the representatives of Mohave County allege that the withdrawal will mean the loss of well over $2 billion in tax revenues over a 42-year period as well as the loss of over 1000 jobs.

Mohave County Board of Supervisors chairman Buster Johnson said it was time to "draw a line in the sand" over the federal withdrawal. "We are using our finite resources to pay for a lawsuit to stop the feds from taking our land and our economic future," he added. The board voted in 2009 to support uranium mining in the northern Arizona county, considering that it would not affect local groundwater acquifers or threaten the Grand Canyon, a major attraction in the region which also receives a significant amount of electricity from the Palo Verde nuclear power plant.

The suit seeks to have the withdrawal order declared unlawful and set aside permanently.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News