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Johnson: Mohave County still fighting ban on new mines

Buster Johnson

KINGMAN - A federal judge recently upheld the U.S. Interior Department's authority to ban mining on a million acres surrounding the Grand Canyon, but that will not have an effect on Mohave County's argument in the case, according to Mohave County Supervisor Buster Johnson.

"The ruling doesn't change where the county is going on the lawsuit," Johnson said.

The county joined a lawsuit against the federal government filed by several mining companies in April 2012. The county claims that the federal government did not seek information on the potential economic impact the mining ban would have on local governments.

The mining companies claim that Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar based his decision to ban mining on a flawed environmental impact statement and that the Bureau of Land Management did not follow federal law when creating the statement.

The companies also claim that the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, which grants Secretary of the Interior the authority to remove public land from use, is unconstitutional.

The law grants the secretary the authority to remove 5,000 acres or more of federal land from public use for up to 20 years without approval from Congress. The act also grants Congress the authority to veto the secretary's decision.

The mining companies argued that the constitution doesn't allow Congress to delegate part of its authority to a government agency and then veto that department's decision later. Congress must change the authority of the agency by passing legislation that the president signs.

The companies argued that the Secretary of the Interior's authority to withdraw federal land was so entwined with the Congressional veto part of the act that if the Congressional veto was unconstitutional, then the whole law should be ruled unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge David Campbell agreed that the Congressional veto section of the law is unconstitutional. However, that part of the law could be easily separated from the rest of the law, he said in his ruling Wednesday.

While the ruling doesn't affect the county's claim against the federal government it does allow the case to move forward, Johnson said. The county is hoping the rest of the case will reach the courts by summer.

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