Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

May 29, 2010

Navajos Protest Uranium Mining Plans

Navajo Activists Protest Uranium Mining Plans
Democracy Now!
A group of indigenous activists have traveled to Denver this week to protest a uranium mining conference discussing new mining projects on Navajo land. Three Navajo activists were removed from the conference despite being formally invited to attend one of the sessions. On Thursday, one of the three, Nadine Padilla of the Multicultural Alliance for Safe Environments, protested her expulsion.
Nadine Padilla: "The problem is this is a meeting we should have been involved in from the start. The four proposed mines on Navajo land is something the community members need to be a part of. We need to be at the table and need to have our voices and our concerns heard by people who are making the decisions, such as the federal agencies like the Nuclear Regulatory Commission."
Statement from Navajos:
We call on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the National Mining Association, Uranium Resources Inc. and Hydro Resources Inc. to take immediate action to reverse the dangerous and deadly course you are taking. On behalf of all the communities and living creature still suffering from the legacy of uranium mining we demand that you immediately:
Respect and abide by the Navajo Nation’s ban on uranium mining
Revoke/Withdraw all four ISL permits for uranium mines slated for Crownpoint and Church Rock communities on the Navajo Nation.
Consider existing conditions and cumulative impacts in your licensing decisions. This is what matters to the human body.
Support the cleanup of the 259 abandoned uranium mines and tailing sites in New Mexico.
Insure that drinking water is protected. Contamination must not be allowed from traditional or in-situ mining practices. Water is sacred and vital to all life.
Enough Is Enough
No New Permits for Uranium Mines!
On May 18, 2010, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver rejected the needs of the people by allowing the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Hydro Resources Inc to mine uranium that can impact the aquifer that supplies drinking water for 15,000 Navajos in Church Rock, New Mexico. Dissenting Judge Carlos F. Lucero explained the error in his colleague’s legal opinion this way:
“HRI plans to mine the site, which will result in total radiation levels nine to 15 times the permitted regulatory limit,” he said.
These mining permits are the First step in a process that threatens the local and global environment with contamination from mining.
The Navajo Nation Government unanimously passed a Uranium Mining Ban on tribal lands in April of 2005. Despite this ban, mining corporations like Hydro Resources Inc. (HRI) and Uranium Resources Inc. (URI) have relentlessly pursued permits for new mines, including mines on native sacred sites in New Mexico.
There is NO NEED for new uranium mining. The value of uranium has been artificially bolstered by false promises of “nuclear power renaissance”. The reality is that current nuclear reactors are in their final years of operation and have adequate fuel. No nuclear plants have been licensed, constructed or are even under construction in the US. The Obama Administration would like to change that and this is one step in the process of expanding the nuclear industry – both power and weapons. There are proposals for 22 new uranium mines, billions for weapons expansion and a number of nuclear power plants have been proposed. This is the wrong direction.
A History of Destruction and No Accountability
Uranium mining began in earnest on Navajo land during the Grants Uranium Boom from the 1950s - 1980s. The NM State Mining and Minerals Division lists 259 uranium production mines and 400 uranium exploration sites with a concentration in the Grants Belt.
When most of these ‘legacy’ mines were operating the Clean Water Act hadn’t been passed and the New Mexico Environment Department didn’t exist. Of the 259 uranium production mines, 137 have no record of any kind of cleanup work.
Navajo families continue to live with the radioactive pollution and increased health risks from past uranium mining and milling, including the United Nuclear Corporation (UNC) uranium mill tailings spill into the Puerco River, in the Church Rock area in 1979. This was the largest release of radioactive waste in U.S. history. URI/HRI which acquired this site from UNC in 1993 has still not committed to a full cleanup of the Old Church Rock Mine and the spill.
Today, HRI/URI claims that in-situ mining is safe. But communities like Kingsville TX, disagree. URI has been unable to restore the water quality contaminated by the in-situ mining there.
In-situ leaching releases large amounts of radon, and produces waste slurries and waste water during recovery of the uranium from the liquid. Dangerous radioactive heavy metals are mobilized in this process. It is technologically impossible to restore natural groundwater conditions after leaching operations have been completed.
Why is the US Government and Mining Corporation Disrespecting Our Communities and Putting Us at Risk?
By turning their backs on local opposition and ignoring the hard fought battle of tribal communities and environmental organizations in New Mexico and Texas, state and federal regulators, the courts and environmental agencies have failed to protect these lands from exploitation and environmental destruction.
This is an issue of environmental racism. Despite opposition to new uranium mining from 13 Navajo communities and dozens of other local and regional institutions since 1995, the US Government and Corporate interest continue to press forward.
How You Can Help?
Contact Steve Cohen at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and ask him to revoke permits for all four proposed mines at Crownpoint and Church Rock communities on the Navajo Nation. Demand all the abandon mines are clean up and health effects addressed! or (301) 415-7182
Become part of the Disarmament Summer Campaign – support the sustainable action encampment this summer July 30th-August 9th in Chimayo, NM. On the August 6th, the 65th Anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki we will protest this nuclear insanity where it all began – Los Alamos. Be there!

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