A Canadian mining company has acquired land rights for a mineral deposit that was previously part of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah. The land was removed from Grand Staircase last year by President Trump.
Glacier Lake Resources Inc., a Vancouver-based company that specializes in copper and silver, is looking to expand its repertoire with the “Colt Mesa” copper-cobalt property in southwestern Utah. In a press release, the company notes that the "area recently became open for staking and exploration after a 21 year period moratorium" and specifically credits President Trump with reducing the size of Grand Staircase-Escalante.
Originally designated a National Monument in 1996, the land became an early flashpoint in President Trump's interior policy. After Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke toured the region, of ignoring the voices of Native Americans, President Trump Grand Staircase into three separate monuments. The resulting monuments make up 1,003,863 acres (4,062 km2), a 47 percent reduction from 1996.
Environmental and Native groups have challenged Trump's decision on Grand Staircase as well as on the Bears Ears National Monument in court, that the actions were illegal. The groups says that the 1906 Antiquities Act gives President Trump only the power to create monuments, not to unilaterally alter them.
The Costa Mesa deposit was discovered in 1968 , according to Glacier Lake Resources, and was mined on and off from 1971 to 1974. The company's surface samples have shown cobalt, zinc, nickel and molybdenum. The company also notes in its press release that while the site has also seen time as a uranium mine, there has been little focus on cobalt.
As lithium-ion batteries become more prevalent in electric cars and other devices, cobalt has seen its value rise as a commodity. Cobalt is often mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where political strife makes for a “significant supply risk," according James Frith, a London-based analyst .
Which lands remain public and which do not have been the topics of vigorous debate over the last several decades. While Glacier Lake hopes to begin mining this summer, they will likely face further legal challenges.
“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. 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," says Nada Culver, of The Wilderness Society in a press statement.