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Colorado Woman Asks Supreme Court to Restore Her Valuable Mining Rights

Mar 09, 2018 | by William Perry Pendley

Nobel Peace Prize co-winner and international uranium expert planned that her Arizona mining claims would be her retirement nest egg until they were seized by the Obama administration.

DENVER, CO.  A Colorado geologist with an international reputation had her dreams of remuneration for years of hard work searching for elusive valuable mineral deposits in the scorching heat of northern Arizona dashed by the Obama administration.  Today, as a member of the American Exploration & Mining Association (AEMA), she urged that the Supreme Court of the United States reverse a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in hopes of regaining her properties.

Dr. Karen Wenrich graduated from 3 years of high school in Wiesbaden, Germany, after spending her childhood being moved around the U.S. by a father who was a colonel in the Air Force (a hump pilot during WWII and later a lawyer in the JAG for the Air Force).  Climbing rocks as a child in the West was a way of life, which stimulated an interest in geology.  She set roots down at Penn State where she received a scholarship, assistantship, and then a fellowship; after 9 years, she left Penn State with a B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in geology/volcanology to return to Colorado for a 25-year career with the U.S. Geological Society.  From 2002-2005, Dr. Wenrich worked with diplomatic status for the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, Austria, as its senior uranium geologist in charge of studying worldwide uranium resources and thus contributed to the work that earned the agency its 2005 Nobel Peace Prize.  She has published over 175 papers.

Over the years, Dr. Wenrich located, delineated, and developed high-grade uranium deposits in northern Arizona where, after investing more than $100,000, she staked 71 mining claims with joint interest in another 94 claims.  Unfortunately, her agreement to sell those 71 claims for $200,000 were dashed in early 2012, when Secretary of the Interior Salazar withdrew over a million acres of federal land from mining.  She may not sell her claims, nor may she develop her other claims, or explore for and stake other valuable uranium claims.

Dr. Wenrich is a member of the AEMA, a 123-year-old nonprofit, non-partisan mining trade association with thousands of members, which, represented by Mountain States Legal Foundation, challenged the withdrawal of the nation’s highest-grade uranium deposits as violating the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA).  The AEMA argued that Congress only authorized large withdrawals if the action survived a “legislative veto” and, because such “vetoes” are unconstitutional, the authorization for withdrawals exceeding 5,000 acres fails as well.  An Arizona federal district court disagreed.  The Ninth Circuit concluded that Congress was bent on providing withdrawal authority to the Secretary.

“The three-judge panel could not have been more wrong when it asserted a purported desire by Congress to grant the Executive power to close federal land to lawful uses,” said William Perry Pendley of MSLF.  “The entire history of the passage of FLPMA shows Congress specifically intended to limit the Executive’s authority to withdraw large tracts of land.  By ignoring this history, the panel essentially granted the Executive unbridled authority to lock-up federal lands from lawful uses such as mining to the detriment of people like Dr. Wenrich.”

For more information:  American Exploration & Mining Association v. Zinke

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