MAC: Mines and Communities

Navajos Ask Court To Prevent Uranium Mining

Published by MAC on 2007-02-13
Source: The Associated Press

Navajos Ask Court to Prevent Uranium Mining

The Associated Press

13th February 2007

Navajo tribal members went to court Monday to try to block plans for uranium mining near the Navajo communities of Church Rock and Crownpoint in northwestern New Mexico.

A petition filed in the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver asks the court to reverse Nuclear Regulatory Commission orders during the past several years regarding proposals by Hydro Resources Inc. to mine uranium near the two communities.

The petitioners also want the court to revoke the NRC's license to New Mexico-based Hydro Resources.

The petition, which lists NRC rulings dating to 1999, argues that the NRC violated the Atomic Energy Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and its own regulations.

Eastern Navajo Diné Against Uranium Mining, the Albuquerque-based Southwest Research and Information Center, and Grace Sam and Marilyn Morris of Pinedale, near the proposed Church Rock mine, filed the petition after losing their fight to overturn the NRC's uranium mining license to Hydro Resources.

Hydro Resources wants to inject chemicals into the ground to release uranium and pump the solution to the surface in a process called in situ leaching.

Hydro Resources did not immediately return a call seeking comment on the petition.

The Navajo Nation banned uranium mining and processing on its land in 2005, but companies have been trying to revive mining in the area as uranium prices soar.

Cibola and McKinley counties have passed resolutions supporting uranium mining, pointing to its potential to create jobs.

Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ruled that a 160-acre parcel near Church Rock is "Indian Country" -- meaning Hydro Resources must apply for an underground injection control permit from the EPA, not the state of New Mexico as it previously had done.

Tribal officials have said they want the EPA to make the determination, rather than the state, because the United States has a higher obligation to protect American Indian interests than states do.

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