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Support Dine Communities Working to Keep the Uranium Mining Ban on Navajo Nation

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STEALTH BILL UNDERMINES NAVAJO URANIUM BAN BY ALLOWING ISL ‘DEMONSTRATION’ IN CHURCHROCK SCHEDULED FOR VOTE MONDAY

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Dec. 23, 2013

 

Contact: Leona Morgan

Sierra Club Front End Working Group

leonamorgan@icloud.com

505-879-8547

 

STEALTH BILL UNDERMINES NAVAJO URANIUM BAN BY ALLOWING ISL ‘DEMONSTRATION’ IN CHURCHROCK SCHEDULED FOR VOTE MONDAY


Council Delegate Leonard Tsosie proposes legislation to allow in situ leach uranium mining

 

Chilchinbeto, Ariz. — Proposed legislation in front of a Navajo Nation Council committee on Monday would allow the operation of a controversial uranium mining project in Churchrock, despite the Nation’s 2005 ban on uranium mining and significant public opposition.

The proposed bill, sponsored by Council Delegate Leonard Tsosie (Whitehorse Lake) and Delegate Chairperson Katherine Benally (Kayenta), would allow Uranium Resources, Inc., (URI) to construct a “demonstration project” that would extract uranium ore by using in-situ leach mining techniques, known as ISL mining.

The legislation, if approved, at a specially scheduled meeting on Dec. 23, would create a right-of-way to access URI’s proposed mine site, located on 160 acres of privately owned land, called Section 8, which is surrounded by BLM and tribal trust land and Section 17 tribal trust land, near Churchrock and Pinedale. As a condition of mining uranium there, URI must transport the uranium out of the Navajo Nation for processing, which would entail trucking radioactive materials through multiple communities and across tribal trust lands.

“This legislation is being pushed through on short notice and is essentially a back-door method to open up the Navajo Nation to uranium mining and attack the Diné Natural Resources Protection Act,” said Leona Morgan, a community organizer with the Sierra Club Nuclear-Free Front End Working Group.

“For years, URI has been trying to build its ISL mine and find a way to defy the will of the people. Any major decisions that come out of our central tribal government should always have prior and informed consent from all impacted people and communities,” said Jonathan Perry, Eastern Navajo Diné Against Uranium Mining President. “Everyone should have an equal opportunity to speak on this issue. Haven’t we suffered enough? We must always remember that future generations will have to live with what we do today. I urge our elected officials to consider that when it comes time to state their positions on this proposed legislation.”

The Navajo Nation Resources and Development Committee is scheduled to vote on Legislation 0373-13 at a special meeting 9 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 23, at the Chapter House in Chilchinbetoh, Ariz., following a five-day public comment period, which ended on Saturday, Dec. 21. The legislation is then reviewed and will require final approval from the president.

“This is an action from a few elected officials that violates existing Navajo Nation policy and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” Morgan said. “It is unacceptable. We are urging community members to speak out against it and take action.  Łéétsoh (uranium) is a poison and mining it is an improper and dangerous use of our water and natural resources.”

Morgan will speak at a joint press conference with Diné CARE scheduled for 12 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 23, in front of the Navajo Nation Council Chambers in Window Rock.

ISL mining is done by injecting a sodium bicarbonate solution deep below the surface into an aquifer that bears uranium. The resulting mixture is pumped to the surface and extracted. Waste water from the operation is then injected back underground. URI plans to haul the radioactive mixture to a processing plant in Texas to produce concentrated uranium known as yellowcake.

URI, formerly known as Hydro Resources, Inc., has contaminated ground water at its ISL uranium mines in Texas. The proposed mine near Churchrock would involve the development of dozens of extraction and injection wells. On the surface of the mine, an industrial plant would be built in the southeast corner of Section 8 to process and package the uranium-laden slurry.

Until now, construction of the mine has been blocked not only by the the Diné Natural Resources Protection Act, which prohibits all uranium mining, but by the lack of a formal access agreement to URI’s private property inholding. A pre-existing agreement requires URI to clean up any prior uranium contamination on Sections 8 and 17 prior to starting new mining operations.

Community members have also fiercely opposed the mine’s development and the impacts to public health and the environment for more than 20 years.

Don Yellowman, president of the Forgotten People, issued a proclamation against proposed Bill 0373-13.

“This bill will continue to perpetuate the same destruction and devastation on our Dine families and communities. This bill is another genocidal act that continues to perpetuate evil across our motherlands,” said Yellowman. “I pray to our ancestors and all holy beings that our council delegates and other leaders (decision makers) turn away from evil acts and say no more to dirty business, politics and energy. And I challenge you to go beyond and say no to this legislation and any other legislation that further destroys our land, water and air.”

 

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For more information:

Don Yellowman’s proclamation:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k4ykpghypck

NNC Legislation 0373-13:

http://www.navajonationcouncil.org/Legislations/2013/Dec/0373-13.pdf

Special RDC Meeting Agenda:

http://www.navajonationcouncil.org/MeetingSchedules/2013/DEC/23DEC2013_RDC_Special_Mtg_Proposed_Agenda.pdf

Diné Natural Resources Protection Act of 2005:

http://www.navajocourts.org/Resolutions/CAP-18-05.pdf

Radioactive Materials Transportation Act of 2012:

http://www.navajonationepa.org/Pdf%20files/UraniumTaskForce/CF_18_12.pdf

NN Energy Policy of 2013:

http://www.nncouncil.org/uploads/directory/32fe3a909cee406fbad3148b277ca031/0276_13.pdf

 

SIGN OUR PETITION: Do not start uranium mining on Mt. Taylor

To be delivered to: Joe Norrell, Acting Forest Supervisor, U.S. Forest Service

PETITION STATEMENT: I urge you to protect New Mexico’s environment and public health by opposing the Roca Honda uranium mine on Mt. Taylor. Please choose the “No Action” Alternative in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

PETITION BACKGROUND:For the first time in 30 years, New Mexico may open its doors to uranium mining. Uranium mining can cause permanent damage to our water supplies through the leaching of radioactive materials into groundwater, not to mention the fact that it takes millions of gallons of water a day to operate a mine. Worse yet—they want to mine on Mt. Taylor, a mountain sacred to the Navajo and Pueblos and the highest point in the Cibola National Forest. Allowing mining anywhere near the mountain would be devastating.Please sign the petition below and show the U.S. Forest Service that New Mexicans do not want this type of destruction in our state. Public comments are open until May 14.

Sign the petition at: http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/do-not-start-uranium.fb28?source=s.fb.ty&r_by=1259323.

PRESS RELEASE: No Uranium Mining in Churchrock, New Mexico Until Legacy Waste Is Cleaned Up

Larry J. King, ENDAUM Board member, stands at his gate and points out the area of in Churchrock, NM known as Section 8 where Hydro Resources (a subsidiary of Uranium Resources Inc.) plans to mine uranium using in situ leach methods. 
Photo by Leona Morgan

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, July 23, 2012

NO URANIUM MINING IN CHURCHROCK, NEW MEXICO
UNTIL LEGACY WASTE IS CLEANED UP

CHURCHROCK, N.M. — On July 19, 2012, the uranium mining company Hydro Resources Inc. signed an agreement with the Navajo Nation giving the mining company limited access across Navajo Indian Country to its Churchrock Section 8 mine site. The agreement specifically states that Hydro Resources (a subsidiary of Uranium Resources Inc.) cannot begin mining uranium until legacy waste at Section 8 and adjacent Section 17 has been cleaned up.
Hydro Resources announced its intention to mine uranium on Section 8 and Section 17 in 1994. Community members organized themselves as the Eastern Navajo Diné Against Uranium Mining (ENDAUM) and sought the help of the nonprofit law firm New Mexico Environmental Law Center to keep irresponsible uranium mining from returning to Navajo lands. ENDAUM has kept the fight going for over a decade and Hydro Resources has yet to break ground.

ENDAUM’s mission is to ensure that the water, air, land and community health are protected. Leona Morgan, ENDAUM Coordinator explains, “ENDAUM believes it is our right as Indigenous Peoples to preserve our traditional and cultural Diné resources that may be affected if uranium mining is allowed anywhere within the Four Sacred Mountains or on other Indigenous Peoples’ homelands. ENDAUM and our allies will continue to fight for the right to safe drinking water supplies for all life, for all our relations and future generations,” says Morgan.

“Hydro Resources’ parent company, Uranium Resources Inc., is struggling to pay for clean-up at its uranium operations in Texas,” says Eric Jantz, attorney for ENDAUM. “We’re skeptical that Hydro Resources will be able to pay for clean-up at Church Rock. In any event, ENDAUM and the people of Church Rock will be watching Hydro Resources and the Navajo Nation to ensure that their land and families are protected.”

The Navajo Nation fined Hydro Resources for trespass earlier this year when the company crossed tribal trust land in order to access its property on Section 8. The agreement was made to allow Hydro Resources limited access to Section 8 and require that Hydro Resources submit to Navajo Nation jurisdiction for its operations in Indian Country as well as clean up the radioactive waste on its property before any new mining commences.

“The Navajo Nation doesn’t currently have clean-up regulations under its Superfund law — those regulations will have to be written,” says Morgan. “ENDAUM will be engaged in this process to ensure that the highest clean-up standards are adopted to protect the community.”

Interviews and Images Available Upon Request

CONTACTS:

Leona Morgan
Coordinator
Eastern Navajo Diné Against Uranium Mining
leona@endaum.com

Eric Jantz
Staff Attorney
New Mexico Environmental Law Center
ejantz@nmelc.org

 

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

http://nmenvirolaw.org/index.php/site/cases/hydro_resources_inc._uranium_mines/

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Additional Online Resources:

 

Navajo Nation & HRI Agreement

Fully Executed Temporary Access Agreement, Signed July 19, 2012

Navajo Nation Laws

Radioactive and Related Substances, Equipment, Vehicles, Persons, and Materials Transportation Act of 2012

Diné Natural Resources Protection Act of 2005

Human Rights Petition: EPA: Don’t Sacrifice Navajo Water for Uranium Mining | Change.org

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.

Thank you,

Larry J. King

Eastern Navajo Diné Against Uranium Mining (ENDAUM)

Church Rock, NM

via Human Rights Petition: EPA: Don’t Sacrifice Navajo Water for Uranium Mining | Change.org.