Navajos On Warpath Over Uranium Mining On Tribal Lands
For all the minorities in this country who have raised pluperfect hell about their past or current situations, the American Indian has been the quietist, and I wonder why.
Before you write me nasty emails, I’m not minimizing the concerns of minorities in this country: they have their issues and the right to use their voices, and that’s good.
But think for a moment about the original settlers of this land, the American Indian.
They did just fine for centuries, sustaining their cultures with the fruits of the land, picking fights and having wars, just like we all do.
Then, came the white man (no emails please, because that’s what happened), who invaded the natives’ birthright, confiscated their tribal lands, transferred them to reservations and literally forgot about them. Many of those Native Americans to this very day are without electricity and running water, in some cases, living in dirt poor conditions, and they languish without raising their voices.
How incredibly sad.
To add insult to this incomprehensible indignity, mining companies in search of uranium invaded their tribal homes, gouged out huge amounts of topsoil, taking what uranium they could profitably retrieve and leaving open sores bleeding toxic radiation into the soil, air and water.
Their legacy? Still-born babies, children with birth defects, cancer for hundreds, maybe even thousands, livestock mutations and God only knows what else. Maybe to the nuclear industry and our federal government, these people are considered “collateral damage.”
The government that put these noble people onto these lands, quickly approved the mining claims and encouraged uranium miners to take what they can, and in many cases paid only lip service to the clean-up process.
Now, with the price of uranium soaring, those uranium people are at it again, boring test holes on federal lands, in our “protected” forests, and on Indian nation lands.
In an unprecedented move, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) will be challenged in Federal appeals court for its approval of a source materials license for an in situ leach uranium mine on Navajo tribal lands.
The New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC), will present oral arguments on May 12 to a panel of Federal judges in Denver, asking that the NRC decision to allow mining be set aside.
Eric Jantz, an attorney for the NMELC, said in a news release:
“The importance of our hearing on May 12 cannot be overstated. “We are talking about the land, water, air and health of two whole communities. There are people on this land grazing their cattle and hauling their daily drinking water.”
The company in question, Hydro Resources, is proposing mining operations in four areas in the Church Rock-Crownpoint region. The NRC approved the license in 2006, but the New Mexico Environmental Law Center filed a lawsuit in 2007, asking that the license application be overturned.
In it’s release, the NMELC states the NRC has violated the National Environmental Policy Act, the Atomic Energy Act, and it’s own regulations.
The NMELC’s clients are appealing the following points:
Hydro Resources failed to prove that it will protect groundwater from contamination by uranium and other toxic heavy metals. The company failed to ensure that the health of residents near the mines would be protected from damaging radioactive air emissions.
Hydro Resources’ proposed financial bond for the site is inadequate to ensure that the site(s) would be cleaned up in the event that the company is unable to undertake reclamation of the land and/or water impacted by the mining.
Three cheers for the Navajo Nation, for standing up to our big-brother government.
My stand on nuclear energy is well-stated, en toto: it’s a dirty, dangerous, toxic, life-threatening industry and until miners are held responsible for the mess they make, there should be no new mining of nuclear materials in America.
Photo: LA Times
Keep up to date with all the most interesting green news on the planet by subscribing to our (free) Planetsave newsletter.