Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

May 13, 2011

Navajos take fight to protect water to Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

Photo: Larry King by Shelbie Knox/ENDAUM

Press Conference Monday, May 16, 8:30 National Press Club, Washington, DC

SANTA FE, N.M.— Today, the New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC) and its client, Eastern Navajo Diné Against Uranium Mining (ENDAUM), filed a petition with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights seeking to halt a uranium mining operation in the Navajo villages of Church Rock and Crownpoint, N.M. They will conduct a press conference Monday, May 16, 8:30 a.m. at the National Press Club in Washington, DC regarding the filing.

After 16 years of legal fighting, the New Mexico Environmental Law Center has exhausted all avenues offered by the U.S. legal system to overturn the mining license granted by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to Hydro Resources Inc. (HRI). Should HRI be allowed to mine, the drinking water for approximately 15,000 people will be contaminated.

“The HRI license marks the first time that any mining company in the U.S. has been federally authorized to mine uranium in a community drinking water aquifer,” says Eric Jantz, NMELC attorney. “This aquifer provides the sole source of drinking water for the mostly Navajo community members represented by ENDAUM. By granting this license, the NRC has failed to uphold its mandate to protect the health and safety of all Americans.”

HRI has stated its objective is to begin mining in Church Rock by mid-2013, and the threatened community has few options left.

“ENDAUM’s best hope is to encourage the executive branch of the federal government to intervene to oppose this license,” says Larry King, an ENDAUM board member. “Efforts over the past 15 years at the federal level have failed to engage officials and regulators about the impact this mining will have on the community’s health and water supply. We have to fight in every legal venue to prevent this mining from taking place.”

The petition seeks remedies for the violation of the Navajos human rights and requests that the Commission recommend to the United States to take restorative measures including:

• The NRC should suspend HRI’s materials license until such time as HRI has remediated the radioactive surface contamination on Church Rock’s Section 17, and the United States has taken significant and meaningful steps to remediate the abandoned uranium mines within the boundaries of the Church Rock Chapter;

• That the NRC require HRI to submit comprehensive baseline groundwater quality and other hydrological, geological and geochemical data, subject to a public hearing;

• That the NRC rescind HRI’s license for the Church Rock Section 17 and Unit 1 sites which are subject to the Navajo Nation’s ban on uranium mining and processing;

• That the NRC or other appropriate administrative agencies prohibit forced removal of Petitioner Larry King and his family from Church Rock Section 17 or forced disruption of his subsistence grazing practices or cultural activities.

“Multiple international human rights treaties say health is a human right. The NMELC and our clients agree, and by licensing uranium projects in drinking water aquifers, the U.S. government has failed to protect the Navajo community’s human rights,” said Jantz. “New uranium mining will further desecrate Navajo communities across the reservation already suffering illnesses and death because of legacy mining and waste.”

WHAT: Press Conference Held By Eastern Navajo Diné Against Uranium Mining and the New Mexico Environmental Law Center
WHERE: The Murrow Room, The National Press Club, 13th Floor, 529 14th St. NW, Washington, D.C.
WHEN: Monday, May 16, 8:30 a.m.
Jennifer B. Marshall, The Marshall Plan, 505-231-1776,
Contacts: Jennifer B. Marshall, The Marshall Plan,
Eric Jantz, Staff Attorney, New Mexico Environmental Law Center,
cell: 505-980-5239
Juana Colón, Communications and Public Education Associate, New Mexico Environmental Law Center
1405 Luisa Street, Ste.5, Santa Fe, NM 87505, 505-989-9022 x 21, Fax: 505-989-3769
New York Times article:

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