Kane County Commissioners were shocked Monday morning to receive word that Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar is possibly attempting to close down all present and future uranium mining operations on the Arizona Strip. This action would result in a $30 bil­lion loss to the economies of southern Utah and northern Arizona. It would also eliminate the possibility of up to 4,000 new jobs.

The commissioners were only given an hour and a half notice before an announcement was made by Salazar at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon extending for six months the “temporary withdrawal” which has been in effect for almost two years. Salazar also announced that at the conclusion of the extension he prefers to withdraw all mining activities on the Arizona Strip.

Commission Chairman Doug Heaton said of Secretary Salazar’s announcement, “The Secretary took the basic same approach that was taken years ago by President Clinton in the creation of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. He stretched the law to cater to radical environmental groups who are opposed to multiple use of any public lands.”

Kane County Commissioners have joined with other Utah and Arizona county officials in a letter to President Obama to call off his Secretary of Interior’s attempt to eliminate 4,000 jobs in their counties. These are counties that already struggle economically, and in some cases have signifi­cant numbers of residents under the poverty level. Mining related jobs would have a huge eco­nomic impact on this area of the country where household incomes are substantially below the national average and unemployment rates high in some of the effected counties.

The Arizona Strip contains the nation’s highest-grade uranium deposits and enough uranium to provide power generation for the entire state of California for more than 20 years. For this announcement to be made at this time is baffling, as the country is struggling eco­nomically, and the United States is importing 90% of the uranium used in the 104 nuclear power plants spread across the county. Thirty years ago, the United States produced 100% of the uranium it used in these plants.

Bureau of Land Management officials told elected officials from the effected counties that the Arizona Strip field office had found no evidence of water contamination, detrimental effects on wildlife, or any problems with the safe operation of uranium mines on the Arizona Strip.

With no evidence of contamination or pollution, Commissioner Heaton said, “Salazar’s efforts are purely for political reasons, to satisfy demands from anti-development environmentalists who have always opposed mining on the Arizona Strip. We’ll continue to fight to improve the eco­nomic benefits for Kane County and work to make America more energy independent.”

Uranium mining operations were a significant part the economy of southern Utah and northern Arizona for years in the 80s and into the early 90s. The mines that were operational at the time had exceptional records for safety and reclamation of mining sites. When the mines closed in the early 90s, the economic impact was huge on Kane County and it’s neighboring counties who are fighting to win this battle for economic prosperity and energy independence for the country.