The Colorado Plateau of New Mexico still bears the unhealed sores of the Uranium Boom of the last century – radioactive waste piles, contaminated water and hundreds of mines on Navajo land abandoned by companies looking to make a quick profit. Despite the massive contamination, companies want to start a new era of mining in this region.
I know this because I am Diné (Navajo) and live in Church Rock, New Mexico – only yards away from a proposed new uranium mine. As a resident and former miner, I have experienced the effects of uranium exploitation first-hand. Many of my relatives and neighbors, including myself, have suffered health problems due to working at or living near the mines. In fact, one study has found that cancer rates among Navajo living near mine tailings are several times higher than the national average.
Knowing the inherent risks of this industry, I am concerned about the long-term effects and threats to the safety and health of our people, our water, and local plants and animals. An elementary school sits near the proposed uranium processing plant and I am concerned about the safety of my community.
In 1989, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency gave Hydro Resources, Inc. an “aquifer exemption.” This permit allows Hydro Resources to destroy part of the aquifer beneath our community in order to extract uranium through in situ leach processing (ISL). The EPA did this before our community even knew about the proposal.
Recently, something unprecedented happened: the EPA agreed to revisit that 1989 decision. With new evidence of how ISL mining contaminates groundwater and recent health studies, we hope the EPA reconsiders all the facts and revokes Hydro Resources’ aquifer exemption. In a region where many Diné families still live without running water, water if life!
Revoking this permit could be our last chance to protect our community from this mine.
Our communities have already experienced excessive mental anguish and health impacts because of past mining. How can the EPA allow this poisonous uranium processing in our aquifer when our people rely on this water for our future?
The EPA has a rare opportunity to right a terrible wrong before new damage occurs. Please help us to protect our community water resources by urging the EPA to revoke this aquifer exemption IMMEDIATELY before the company has a chance to begin contaminating our groundwater with uranium.
Larry J. King
Eastern Navajo Diné Against Uranium Mining (ENDAUM)
Church Rock, NM