Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and top Utah Republicans have said repeatedly that questions of mining or drilling played no role in President Trump’s announcement Monday that he was cutting the site by more than 1.1 million acres, or 85 percent. Trump also signed a proclamation nearly halving the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which is also in southern Utah and has significant coal deposits.
“This is not about energy,” Zinke told reporters Tuesday. “There is no mine within Bears Ears.”
But the nation’s sole uranium processing mill sits directly next to the boundaries that President Barack Obama designated a year ago when he established Bears Ears. The documents show that Energy Fuels Resources (USA) Inc., a subsidiary of a Canadian firm, urged the Trump administration to limit the monument to the smallest size needed to protect key objects and areas, such as archeological sites, to make it easier to access the radioactive ore.
So they were lying about resource extraction in Bears Ears. I am not the least bit surprised.
What always struck me, though, even before this report, is that no one was even trying to claim there wasn’t going to be any mining in Grand Staircase-Escalante. Of course shrinking that monument was all about mining: specifically coal in the Kaiparowits Plateau. But even if the monument shrinks are upheld by the courts, there’s a chance that coal mining still won’t happen; despite Trump’s quixotic quest to bring back coal, the demand for it keeps dropping.
But Kaiparowits does have real treasure under the ground worth digging up: fossils.