And so it begins. During a December 4th visit to Utah, President Donald Trump announced dramatic reductions to two key national monuments – Bears Ears (which was reduced by 85 percent) and Grand Staircase Escalante (reduced by 50 percent). The move represented the largest reduction of public lands in the nation’s history.
It also prompted many public lands advocacy groups and outdoor brands to go on the offensive, most notably Patagonia whose website went black with the words, “The President stole your land.”
Now, according to NPR, Canadian mining firm Glacier Lake Resources, Inc. will move forward with plans to mine minerals from land that was previously part of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.
The firm explains they recently acquired rights to the Colt Mesa copper mine – a 200 parcel plot in Garfield County, Utah. Since 1996, the land was nationally protected, and therefore off-limits to development and mining. The area “recently became open for staking and exploration after a 21-year period moratorium,” explains Glacier Lake in a press release.
Saf Dhillon, President and CEO of Glacier Lake explained the operation would be “a welcome addition to the company’s ever-growing portfolio.”
“Surface exploration work will start this summer on the Colt Mesa property and drill permitting will be initiated shortly,” said Dhillon.
The Bureau of Land Management, however, explained it has yet to receive any formal plans from anyone for the Colt Mesa mine.
“The BLM has not received a mining plan of operations from any entity regarding these mining claims or for the Colt Mesa copper mine to date, and the field office has not received a notice from any entity regarding commencement of exploration,” Kimberly Finch, a spokeswoman for the agency in Utah, told HuffPost. “We will process any plans of operation and notices under the current laws and regulations.”
It was in 1996 that the Clinton Administration created Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in Utah. Until recent cuts, it was the largest national monument in the country at some 1.87 million acres.
Environmental groups are up in arms about the proposed mining operation on lands previously protected from it. In a release, Nada Culver, Senior Director for Agency Policy and counsel for The Wilderness Society, went so far as to say this only serves as further evidence of the underlying motive behind the current administration’s reduction of Grand Staircase Escalante.
“Mining is prohibited in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and any mining claims are invalid, just like President Trump’s attempt to dismantle the monument, which we are already challenging in court,” said Culver. “This company’s actions, and any others that try to mine within monument boundaries, will be scrutinized. We are monitoring this situation and will not stand by and watch mining companies rush to leave irreplaceable scars and damage the natural values of these lands. For those who doubt the intended beneficiaries of the attack on our national monuments, we now have some more evidence of the real reason the administration is trying to sacrifice our public lands.”