The Latest: Mt. Taylor uranium mines still haunt Navajo communities

  • Storm clouds over Mount Taylor.

    Demian Grinther (CC via Flickr)

The controversy surrounding Mount Taylor -- a volcano in northwest New Mexico sacred to several tribes -- began in 2008, when the tribes sought to protect it from further uranium mining ("Dueling Claims," HCN, 12/7/09). After contamination from the mines sickened workers, they fought to have 400,000 acres of federal, state and private lands designated as "traditional cultural property," which raises the level of scrutiny for development proposals. That sparked heated debate among other locals who feared being locked out and led to a spate of violence against Navajos. Despite rulings supporting the designation, the wounds continue to fester.

On July 22, Santa Fe District Judge Raymond Ortiz overturned a state ruling that would have renewed a permit for an inactive uranium mine within the traditional cultural property area on Mount Taylor, filed by General Atomics. Ortiz ruled that the state failed to provide adequate opportunities for public comment, noting that General Atomics' report on the mine's economic viability should have been made public. The mine renewal process will now be re-opened for public comment.

Anna S Jeffrey
Anna S Jeffrey
Sep 03, 2013 12:48 PM
This sounds all too familiar as we here in Superior, AZ fight for the protection of Oak Flat, Gaan Canyon and surrounding areas from Rio Tinto's mining operation, water usage and tailings disposal. In this age of science and discovery, don't you think it's time to curve our technology towards the rescue of our Mother Earth instead of the countless new mining operations that is drainning our water tables and rivers dry, while also contaminating the environment and even our DNA... More rain you might say? ahhhh.... where? Because I haven't seen enough. It appears that all these mining corporations want to use up this planet until it is hanging on string. But that string people will be strong enough to hang ourselves with.
Michael Jensen
Michael Jensen Subscriber
Sep 03, 2013 09:49 PM
The whole permit issue with the Mt Taylor Mine, operated by Rio Grande Resources, a subsidiary of General Atomics, is a complicated dance by RGR. As the story notes, it received a Standby permit (its third) after a "public comment" meeting at which Amigos Bravos, the Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment (uranium mining-impacted communities), and the New Mexico Environmental Law Center were systematically blocked from discussing the impacts of known groundwater contamination on the close-out plan, whether financial assurance was adequate, and the important question of economic viability (in order to get a Standby permit, the mine operator has to prove viability some time within the 5-year Standby term). Our appeal was based on this denial of effective participation by us and members of the public. However, even before the court ruled in July, RGR had asked the Mining & Minerals Department in May to consider its request to move to "Active" status, despite the lack of any indication that uranium markets will improve enough to justify operations. Being able to review at least some of the economic information the mine provided to MMD will be critical, since one interpretation is that the mine operators want to go onto Active status for a short period and then request a new Standby permit, rebooting the process back to the start (a possible 4 permits and 20 years), rather than running out of Standby time (and having to move to mine closeout and remediation) by 2019 at the latest.
Wilbur G Dillman
Wilbur G Dillman
Sep 03, 2013 11:05 PM
This is back to the future all over again. The first time around Red Lady got raped from the ignorance associated with concentrating her nuclear self into a bomb. The excuse was that if we did not do it first Germany and or Russia would. The bomb people needed ore. The Navaho people were asked to go find it and bring it to a collection point where they were given money. When the collection point was identified as a source people were hired to make a mine happen. Only a handful of people called Physicist understood the human hazard associated with busting the crust and releasing Alfa particles in the dust. Their voice meant little to nothing at that time. The uranium extracted from the Southwest not only fueled the bomb, it also fueled our early Nuclear Navy. Some of us who were close to the power listened to it. I hear Red Lady trying to call the Navaho Nation and asking You to squash any attempt to take ore out of the ground and look into recycling the energy that was ripped off to begin with. Utilizing the energy from Nuclear "waste" sure beats trying to bury it in a dry hole. I am putting something into this because of my personnel independent studies have led me to the conclusion that that the average native american is a bunch more intelligent than most Nuclear Physicists. Simply say no and direct them to Canada. Sadly.
Neil Miller
Neil Miller
Sep 10, 2013 08:23 PM
Read the book "Yellow Dirt" it's been out maybe 3 years, unbelievable!