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FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- A judge has upheld the Interior Department's authority to ban new hard rock mining claims on federal land.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced a prohibition last year on more than a million acres near the Grand Canyon that are rich in high-grade uranium ore reserves.

The Federal Land Policy and Management Act gives the Interior secretary the ability to withdraw 5,000 or more acres but not for longer than 20 years without congressional approval.

Mining advocacy groups are suing the federal government over the ban and asked a judge to declare the act unconstitutional.

Wednesday's decision by U.S. District Judge David Campbell clears the way for other claims on environmental and economic impacts to be heard.

Officials expect fewer than a dozen mines to be developed under existing claims.

Associated Press,

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