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Hopi Chairman Criticizes Lifting Uranium Mining Ban Near Grand Canyon

The chairman of the Hopi tribe says he's disappointed about a federal recommendation to lift the 20-year ban on uranium mining on public land outside Grand Canyon National Park.

Herman Honanie said the thought of opening the Grand Canyon area up to uranium mining is indefensible, and that the government should clean up and reclaim existing contaminated sites before it promotes new mining. The U.S. Forest Service has recommended lifting the ban in response to President Donald Trump's executive order for federal agencies to eliminate restrictions on energy production.

In 2012, then-Interior Secretary Ken Salazar banned new hard rock mining for 20 years on more than 1 million acres of public land near the canyon. Conservationists say past uranium mining in the region has caused pollution — and has been blamed for numerous health problems, including cancer.

Associated Press contributed this report.

Stina Sieg was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2013 to 2018.