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Havasupai Tribe v. Forest Service

ELR Citation: 47 ELR 20161
Nos. 3:13-cv-08045-DGC, (9th Cir., 12/12/2017, 10/25/2018)

The Ninth Circuit affirmed a district court's decision rejecting challenges to a mining company's uranium mining rights on public lands around Grand Canyon National Park. In 1988, the Forest Service approved a plan to build and operate the Canyon Mine, a uranium mine in the area around Red Butte. During the approval process, the Forest Service prepared an EIS and assessed the impact of the project under the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA). The mine operator built surface facilities and sank the first fifty feet of a 1,400-foot shaft, but placed the mine on “standby” status in 1992 due to unfavorable conditions in the uranium market. In 2012, DOI withdrew more than one million acres of public lands around Grand Canyon from new mining claims for 20 years, subject to valid existing rights. On April 18, 2012, the Forest Service issued a “Mineral Report” and concluded that the defendant mining company had valid existing rights that were established prior to the withdrawal decision. Concerned environmental groups challenged the determination, claiming that the it was a major federal action that violated NEPA as no EIS was performed, and that the Service violated the NHPA by not conducting a full consultation. The court held that the determination was a major federal action but the original approval was a major federal action that was completed and resuming mining did not require any further federal action. Additionally, the court held that the Service did not violate the NHPA as it simply acknowledged the validity of a claim and did not permit, license, or approve resumed operations at Canyon Mine.