Court sides with Obama administration in Grand Canyon claims case
A lawsuit by Vane Minerals’ that claimed the company lost out on more than $123 million in uranium mining revenue because of the Obama administration’s 2012 decision to block new mining claims on roughly 1 million acres around the Grand Canyon National Park was rejected by a U.S. Federal Court.
Judge Susan Braden said Vane Minerals’ request for almost $80 million in compensation for 678 company mining claims and exploration activities in the affected area was not ripe for discussion.
The company argued that the ban is an unconstitutional taking of property and that it's entitled to compensation for expected profit loss.
The ban requires anyone with existing claims to prove sufficient quantity and quality of uranium ore before any mining could occur, the Arizona Daily Star reported.
Braden sided with the Obama administration in saying that Vane needed to go through a validation process before determining how the withdrawal will affect its claims.
"Unless and until Plaintiff receives a [valid existing rights] determination," she wrote, "neither the BLM, the Forest Service, nor this court can determine if and how the Withdrawal Order will impact Plaintiff's unpatented mining claims."
In its own court filings, Vane Minerals argued that it shouldn't have to go through the validation process because the government is well aware of the rich uranium deposits around the Grand Canyon, Greenwire reported.
The company also argued that the withdrawal made it harder to conduct the necessary exploration to prove validity — and that having to prove validity amounted to a new regulatory burden.
"Had the segregation, and later withdrawal, not been in effect, the Forest Service would not have required mineral examinations or demonstrations of mineral discoveries as a condition of approving Vane's plans of operations," the company wrote in a court filing.
It added that "the value of Vane's mining claims has significantly decreased. Moreover, Vane must pay annual fees to maintain its claims, even though it is effectively barred from developing them."
But Braden, in her 23-page opinion, wrote, "Congress has authorized the Department of Interior to determine the validity of mining claims on the public lands."
"In this case," she concluded, "Plaintiff failed to obtain a VER determination and consequently has no property right."