• By The Financial District


Defeated President Donald Trump has gifted oil companies and mining firms with vast tracts of federal land in five states, infuriating environmentalists and officials of the incoming administration of President Joe Biden.

In his report for Grist, Cameron Oglesby said that in the past four years, at least 10 million acres have been leased to oil and drilling companies, turning formerly pristine forests and mountains into spreads of cratered, barren land laden with heavy machinery.

In a last-minute dash before President Trump leaves office, his administration has approved several mining and drilling projects that may commence before Biden and incoming Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, a Native American, can take control.

In South Dakota, the Oglala Sioux Tribe has been fighting a proposed uranium mine in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The Dewey-Burdock mine, proposed by the Canadian company Powertech, would span more than 12,600 acres and is slated for construction on an area that was formerly part of the Great Sioux Reservation.

Members of the tribe claim that the project would violate an 1868 treaty and federal laws that protect the land as an ancestral burial ground. They also have concerns about the process for extracting uranium, which they fear could pollute underground water resources. The mine would extract as much as 8,500 gallons of groundwater a minute from the Inyan Kara aquifer to collect a total of 10 million pounds of uranium.

Part of the Chí’chil Biłdagoteel Historic District in Tonto National Forest in central Arizona, which is culturally significant for Native American tribes for 1,500 years, will be taken over by Rio Tinto’s Resolution Copper Mining, which will mine 2,422 acres of land and leave a 1.8 mile crater in a desert oasis, according to the Department of Agriculture.

In Utah, the Interior Department may approve drilling in the Labyrinth Canyon Wilderness Area next to Utah’s famous Horseshoe Canyon, with Twin Bridges undertaking their Bowknot Helium project to extract what is believed to be a huge underground helium deposit. The area is classified as a wilderness and beyond the commerce of man.

The lithium deposit at Thacker Pass, in public land in northern Nevada, is one of the biggest on the planet. The Department of Interior may soon grant final approval for a proposed open-pit lithium mine and processing facility there, Currently, there is only one other lithium mine in the country, the Silver Peak lithium mine (also in Nevada).

The proposed project in Thacker Pass is expected to provide 60,000 tons of battery-grade lithium carbonate every year. Nevada residents are protesting the project, saying it would contaminate groundwater. Jefferson National Forest comprises almost 1.8 million acres of public lands spanning Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Soon, it may see another natural gas pipeline built through its trees. The Forest Service plans to push forward the Mountain Valley Pipeline project, a 300-mile pipeline spanning from northern West Virginia into southern Virginia. The pipeline would pass under the Appalachian Trail through approximately 3.5 miles of woods, disrupting old-growth forest.