U.S. Agriculture Department proposes lifting mining ban near Grand Canyon

(Reuters) - The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Wednesday proposed lifting a mining ban on land near Grand Canyon National Park as part of the Trump administration’s broader effort to sweep away regulations impeding development.

“Adoption of this recommendation could re-open lands to mineral entry pursuant to the United States mining laws facilitating exploration for, and possibly development of, uranium resources,” the department wrote in a report to the White House seen by Reuters.

The area potentially affected by the reopening is managed by the department’s Forest Service.

Former President Barack Obama ushered in the ban on new mining in 2012 to preserve the watershed beneath vast areas of land on either side of the Grand Canyon in Arizona - an area that historically served a number of uranium mines.

The report was the most recent proposal to the White House from departments and agencies responding to an executive order from President Donald Trump in March that called for possible measures to boost U.S. energy independence and economic growth.

Environmental groups blasted the most recent proposal.

“The Forest Service should be advocating for a permanent mining ban, not for advancing private mining interests that threaten one of the natural wonders of the world,” said Amber Reimondo with the Grand Canyon Trust.

Global uranium demand and prices are weak, meaning mining companies are unlikely to quickly rush into the area if it is reopened to new mining activity.

A spokesman for the National Mining Association was not immediately available to comment.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in response to Trump’s executive order, has called for measures to speed land development that include the easing of permitting for industrial facilities and accounting for the jobs impact when considering anti-pollution policy.

Writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Tom Brown