Texas Corporation Tries to Re-Open Uranium Mining on Indian Lands
by Garland Harris, Citizens for Alternatives to Radioactive Dumping
Hydro Resources Inc. of Dallas, Texas has applied for licenses to do in-situ leach mining in Crownpoint, New Mexico and Church Rock, Arizona, two locations which are homes to Navajo people. The Federal approvals and licenses have not yet been granted. Citizens who oppose uranium mining have formed Eastern Navajo Dine Against Uranium Mining (ENDAUM).
In October, l994, a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was issued and public meetings were held in February of 1995. Comments are still being considered by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and its consultants. The Final EIS is scheduled to be issued in late l995 or early l996. However, the NRC is considering reissuing the draft EIS because of extensive comments which pointed out major deficiencies in the first draft, according to Chris Shuey, technical consultant with Southwest Research & Information Center. The Navajo Nation, Southwest Research & Information Center (SRIC), ENDAUM's technical adviser, and others raised the following issues:
l. The affected community was not accurately or appropriately described. For example, the Crownpoint wells and reprocessing facility would be located within a quarter mile of residential areas, including four schools and a major regional hospital. The area has a five well municipal water system and the wells are drilled into the same formation as the uranium mine. Critics see the potential for contamination of the area's water as extremely serious.
2. The draft EIS is silent on the Navajo Nation's jurisdiction over groundwater.
3. The draft EIS fails to address the environmental racism issues. Specifically, the value of the water that could be contaminated to the community of Crownpoint has been ignored. A community of some 10,000 people is served directly by the water system. In addition, many Navajos live without running water and come to the Crownpoint Chapterhouse to get water which they truck to their homes in remote areas. "We're trying to protect our main source of livelihood which is the pure water at Crownpoint. If the mining comes back, it'll just ruin everything," Mitchell Capitan, President of ENDAUM explained. "Our water, our traditional ways, the future of our children are all at stake."
Although the Crownpoint Chapterhouse has voted to oppose this project, the Navajo Nation has no stated policy as yet, but the Nation has reflected its concern in technical and legal comments on the draft EIS.
"It looks like high quality regional water which serves more than 10,000 Navajo people could be traded for the interest of an out-of-state corporation in uranium for which there is presently no market or national need," Chris Shuey of SRIC summed up.
ENDAUM has looked into the future of its water in places where uranium mining has taken place and found that restoring the water after the mining has not been successful. To help ENDAUM protect its most valuable resource, water, write to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, D.C. 20555 to oppose licensing of in-situ uranium mining at Crownpoint and Church Rock. Ask them to send you the draft EIS if it is reissued, so that you can formally comment. Send donations to Eastern Navajo Dine Against Uranium Mining, P. O. Box 47l, Crownpoint, NM 873l3. To make a tax deductible contribution, make your check to Southwest Research & Information Center and note at the bottom "for ENDAUM."