St. George, Utah – Mohave County Supervisor Buster Johnson met with members of the Arizona/Utah Local Economic Coalition on Wednesday, May 28, 2014, to receive an update on the uranium mining withdrawal lawsuit and to elect new chairmen. During the biannual meeting, Supervisor Johnson along with Washington County Commissioner Alan Gardner were re-elected as co-chairs of the coalition. “I appreciate the confidence the counties have in me and Commissioner Gardner,” Supervisor Johnson stated. According to Johnson, the coalition was formed in 2011 between Mohave County and several Utah Counties and cities to further the economic benefit of uranium mining.
During the meeting, members were updated on the uranium mining withdrawal status by Pam Hill from the American Clean Energy Resources Trust (ACERT). Mohave County along with Quaterra Alaska, Inc. filed a lawsuit in 2012 against the U.S. Department of the Interior, former Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and BLM Director Robert Abbey over the decision to withdraw over 1 million acres of public lands and National Forest System lands in Mohave County and Coconino County near the Arizona Strip area.
According to a report done by ACRET, future uranium mining claims could have an economic impact of roughly $29 billion for Mohave County and the surrounding Utah counties. According to Johnson, in 1951 uranium was originally discovered at the Orphan (Cu) Mine from patented claims that President Roosevelt signed in 1903. “The Orphan Mine, so far, has been of the highest grade and most profitable in the U.S.,” Johnson stated. “By restricting future mining claims in the area, Mohave County residents are losing out on over 1,000 new jobs being created as well as over a $40 million year payroll,” Johnson continued.
A presentation was also given during the meeting by Attorney Connie Brooks on the legal status of uranium mining cases. According to Johnson, Quaterra Alaska, Inc. partnered with the county in their lawsuit in order to argue that they not only suffered economic damages from the mining ban, but also that the BLM didn’t follow the federal government’s National Environmental Policy Act and Federal Land Policy and Management Act when it produced the report. “This withdrawal is taking away our land and our economic future. The Secretary of the Interior does not have the authority to do these things. This kind of taking of land, power and oversight from states, counties and legal investors can only be accomplished through an act of Congress,” Johnson stated.
The members of the Arizona/Utah Local Economic Coalition are Mohave, Kane, San Juan, and Washington Counties and the town of Fredonia.