National Mining Association v. Jewell: Uranium Withdrawal Case


Uranium mining in Arizona stretches back to the 1800s. Markets and technology have contributed to high and low periods of mining activity in Northwestern Arizona up to the present time. In 2009, with uranium prices particularly high, land managers in Arizona started the process of withdrawing lands around the Grand Canyon National Park. “Withdrawal” in this context means that the area would be closed to mining while remaining open for other uses. In 2012, then Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar issued a decision to withdraw nearly one million acres that can no longer be mined for uranium. This moratorium is scheduled to remain in place for 20 years.

The Challenge

The National Mining Association (NMA), along with several interested parties, filed suit to challenge the withdrawal as improper under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Federal Lands Policy and Management Act (FLPMA). NMA argues that the Department of the Interior violated NEPA by not soliciting local input and violated FLPMA by managing federal land in a way that out of line with the existing resource management plan. In the Arizona federal district court, the withdrawal was upheld. Now NMA, along with industry groups, states, and private parties with mining interests, are appealing to the federal circuit.

Moving Forward

This case is in the early stages and briefing before the 9th Circuit is ongoing. The State of Utah, alongside the States of Arizona, Montana, and Nevada, filed an amicus curiae brief (friend of the court) on April 17, 2015.

Parties to the case are filing briefs with the court. Other interested parties are filing amicus curiae (friend of the court) briefs and motions to intervene. The State of Utah field an amicus brief in April 2015 alongside the States of Arizona, Montana, and Nevada. The States are concerned with the magnitude of the withdrawal and the absence of verifiable justification for the purported reason for the withdrawal: protection of the Grand Canyon watershed.

This site will be updated as the case progresses.

Litigation Timeline

November  2011 NMA and interested parties file suit in AZ district court to challenge the mineral withdrawal.
September 2014 AZ district Court upholds DOIs withdrawal decision.
November 2014 NMA and interested parties appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
 April 2015  State of Utah files amicus curiae brief before the 9th Circuit in support of Appellants NFA

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