WINDOW ROCK, AZ—Concerned Diné Citizens, a coalition of Navajo grassroots organizations and residents opposed to uranium mining, applaud the Navajo Nation Council’s vote to close a loophole created by a previous uranium mining legislation Tuesday (7/22/14) which had authorized access over Navajo Trust Land to a uranium mining company Uranium Resources Incorporated (URI).
“If Uranium Resources were allowed unlimited access over Trust Land in Churchrock, that would have potentially opened up new mining on URI’s other properties in northwestern New Mexico,” said Jonathan Perry, President of Eastern Navajo Diné Against Uranium Mining. Perry continues, “Because these kinds of companies target areas adjacent to the Nation, but not on Navajo Indian Country, our own laws prohibiting new uranium mining cannot protect people in the checkerboard lands.”
In July 2012, URI entered into a Temporary Access Agreement with the Navajo Nation which allows URI limited access to its Churchrock property with certain stipulations, including the clean up of existing uranium contamination in the area.
In December of 2013, the Navajo Resources and Development Committee acknowledged a right-of-way for URI across Navajo Trust Land to use its license to mine, effectively violating the Temporary Access Agreement, the Diné Natural Resource Protection Act and Radioactive Materials Transportation Act. The company plans to do in situ leach (ISL) uranium mining, a technique that requires pumping water with chemicals into the earth to mobilize the uranium within the aquifer in order to extract it.
“Now the Nation’s focus can go back to the over whelming needs for clean up, health studies, and water studies,” said Leona Morgan of Diné No Nukes. “In order for these controversial issues not to play out so divisively in the future, it is imperative that all people—not just Diné people—understand the scope and permanent effects of abandoned uranium mines.”
The Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. EPA and other agencies are continuing ongoing assessment and clean up of the 521 abandoned uranium mines across Navajo Nation that started with the first 5-year plan.