Activism

Published on April 19th, 2008 | by Max Lindberg

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Navajos On Warpath Over Uranium Mining On Tribal Lands

April 19th, 2008 by

uranium-mine.jpg

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.

For the first time in the history of this country, the Navajo communities of Crownpoint and Church Rock, New Mexico are saying NO to the feds and uranium miners.

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

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About the Author

My home state is Illinois, and my hometown a little railroad/farming community named Galesburg.We lived on a small farm during my high school years and I became very aware of nature and it's wonders. I loved the out of doors, working with animals, plowing fields and harvesting crops. Those were very good years.After a stint in the Army during the Korean war my broadcasting career took off at the local radio station, a 250 watt "teapot" as it was called in those days. My first job was as an engineer, then the ham came out and I became an announcer/newsman, graduating after several years to a larger market and a stint as a TV journalist/photographer. Cold, wet weather led me to the southwest where I've lived for most of the last 40 years, with a couple of years out to have fun working as a private investigator in San Francisco, and a few years working in Las Vegas hotels and casinos. In all, its been a real ride.After retiring a few years back I became fascinated with the efforts being made to find alternative energy sources. I've watched our environment deteriorate during my lifetime, and now it's my chance to join the chorus of intelligent and caring individuals making a difference one day at a time.



  • http://llavealhighway.com/contact/ Michael Bradham

    Jacques Cousteau provides a detailed overview of nuclear energy/weapon production in the Human, the Orchid, and the Octopus. He was close to many situations of nuclear debate. Reivew here: http://llavealhighway.com/book-review-the-human-the-orchid-and-the-octopus-by-jacques-cousteau/

  • http://llavealhighway.com/ Michael Bradham

    Jacques Cousteau provides a detailed overview of nuclear energy/weapon production in the Human, the Orchid, and the Octopus. He was close to many situations of nuclear debate. Reivew here: http://llavealhighway.com/book-review-the-human-the-orchid-and-the-octopus-by-jacques-cousteau/

  • prophetjem

    I think the world is coming to an END! All that is in the mind of man is power, and power comes with money!
    The need for uranium is driving the world in chas but who can stop it? Its sad to say, but whatsoever will make America stronger,and more powerful, it will exhaust every avenue just to accomplish that.
    May the Great Spirit be with the Navajo people!
    Good luck!

  • Horsewoman

    Horsewoman says: Yeah, and the people (they know who they are), that are forcing the Dene into forced relocation, will by the grace of God be destroyed! How? They will get cancer, they will die from alcoholism, they will commit suicide, their family members will get so sick that even their WHITE MEDICINE will NOT save them! That is MY prophecy upon those that relocate them and DESTROY them anymore! Mark my WORD! Says the LORD. God’s WRATH will be over ALL their HEADS and “they” will NOT be able to escape His wrath! DEATH to the evil doers and evil people that continue to be GREEDY and continue to relocate the Dene and continue to RAPE their land and destroy God’s animal kingdom, plant kingdom, and children! Psalms Chapter 21 Verse 7: The robbery of the wicked shall destroy them; because they refuse to do justice; Verse 12: God overthroweth the wicked for their wickedness…….

  • Cole

    You mention the Dene (Navajo) lack of fighting the injustices perpetrated against them. I don’t think that’s a fair assessment. The forced relocation of Dene people, and the uranium mining on their lands dates back to at least the 1970’s. Their lawsuits are most typically thrown out of court. These people are constantly marginalized. The mass media are not allowed to report on these issues.

    The first forced relocation resulted in more than 10,000 Dene people being relocated with more than one-third ending up dead due to suicide, cancers, alcoholism, etc. So there is now another forced relocation underway.

  • Horsewoman

    I knew it! The NRC and Hydro Resources are sleeping in bed together! And, Amerika continues to sleep with her eyes closed while she continues to make nuclear weapons. We know it! Our federal government cannot keep the people’s eyes blinded anymore! We are AWAKE! I will do WARRIOR PRAYING from April 20th til May 12th, that the GREAT SPIRIT is more POWERFUL and will bring down to it’s knees the NRC, and Hydro Resources Company. Also, that the GREAT SPIRIT will be over the panel of federal judges to have compassion for the Navajo Nation! Remember the fall of the Roman Empire? God has the POWER to bring DOWN corrupt nations! In the history of nations, all evil nations have been DESTROYED by God! Don’t forget it…….(power to the people!)

  • http://environmentalnightmares.blogspot.com/ igmuska

    The reason that nuclear energy got a foothold to begin with is that it was stolen from Native lands as in the Navajo’s case. They were never told that it was dangerous, that mining was safe and they’d have a job forever.

    Now that the first uranium boom went bust, leaving a toxic legacy for indigenous nations throughout the world, with the corresponding lamentations, the sorrow of losing loved ones to cancer and other creepy diseases.

    Now we know what it is really worth and that in so knowing it will never be a cheap source of energy. This is what we mean; your speculation will not be our suffering and misery.

    Try stealing our uranium again, with more lies. Look at your world, there is no electricity shortage, there is no need for nuclear energy. Nuclear energy will not stop climate change, nor will it decrease the greenhouse effect.

  • Jim47

    Agreed, Max :-) What’s so idiotic is that there are proven methods of nuclear waste disposal which, while expensive, will be as close to a 100% guarantee of clean and safe as Humans can devise, but they are opposed because they are either “new and unproven” (the eco-extremist bloc) or “too expensive and difficult and consumers won’t put up with that” (the energy industry and our government). Wish both sides would shut up with all the rhetoric and just ask us what we consumers are willing to pay for. IMHO, both sides are wrong. Before the Clean Air and Clean Waters acts of the 1960s, industry said that they were too expensive and the consumers would never put up with the cost and inconvenience. I don’t hear consumers complaining; they get very vocal, though, when someone breaks those laws or tries to weaken them. And eco-extremists need to learn that no one but themselves is going to follow the radical course; no rational person, no matter how much they agree with them in principle, is really going to be comfortable with radical methods. There is always a middle ground, one that can be supported by science and engineering, that won’t make the extremes happy. But as the extremes are almost always in the minority, the rest of us should be willing and able to tell them to shove off. Perhaps the Navajo will be the Rosa Parks of nuclear energy. For nuclear energy production to be accepted as part of the solution to our petroleum dependence problem, we definitely need to take care of the before and after. We are in complete agreement here :-)

  • RuthClaire Weintraub

    When I lived and worked in Crownpoint some years ago, a fellow who was out behind the school, surveying for a company that wanted to mine uranium, told me the company had to do that drilling because the City of Los Angeles needs power.

    Tommyrot. There’s enough sun on the State of NY in one day to power the entire State for a year. NM has 364 days of sunshine in a year, even at low altitude, and Crownpoint’s elevation is 6000 feet: enough sun to power almost anything.

    Navajo people don’t need to be exploited, they don’t need to have their land and their resources marauded by greedy corporate oligarchs.

    This country is so technologically sophisticated that no-one in it can figure out how not to exploit nuclear power?

  • Max

    Jim47….

    Thanks for the great comment! For the record, I agree that a nuclear power station is the ultimate in clean power generation. It’s the before and after that I care about.

    I hope the Navajos will set a precedent for other tribes whose lands have been exploited and spoiled.

  • Frank Lichnovsky

    You are not correct. The Churchrock deposit is on private minerals and surface owned by URI. And no matter what the Navajo president thinks a person or a corpration has the right to mine on their own land.

  • Jim47

    Max, you’re wrong about nuclear power (my own position on this has been stated in here enough that I shouldn’t need to elaborate), but that’s not the point here. The Navajo are doing the right thing, and it’s more than high time that they stand up and declare their lands off-limits to uranium mining. I say, “Bravo!” We can agree to disagree about nuclear power generation; we definitely agree on the right of Native Americans to object when the very land which the U.S. Government forced them onto is threatened by that self-same government. I just hope that the courts agree, and do it swiftly and decisively.

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