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Nation reaffirms its stance against uranium mining

WINDOW ROCK

A uranium mining company has been granted a license to mine for uranium ore.

Jonathan Perry, director for the Eastern Navajo Diné Against Uranium Mining, said the Nuclear Regulatory Commission granted uranium mining called NuFuel, a subsidiary of the Canadian mining company Laramie Resources, a license begin mining uranium in Church Rock and Crownpoint.

Perry said the granting of the license violates the Navajo people’s rights as humans under the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, which includes the rights of life, health, benefits of culture, fair trial and property.

Perry said the aquifer that provides pristine water for the Navajo people is being threatened once again.

“We cannot allow it to go forward because it jeopardizes the Navajo people,” Perry said, “our watering source for these communities are also being jeopardized, as well as their well-being.”

Perry said water is sacred to the Navajo people and added plants Navajo people use for medicinal purposes in traditional ceremonies would be threatened if the mining company began mining operations.

Mining process

The mining process called in-situ leaching, or ISL, which the World Nuclear Association stated on its website that 57% of the world uranium was mined using the technique.

The WNA describes the ISL mining as process pumping chemicals into the ground that focuses on mineralizing the ore, which is then pumped to the surface where it is recovered. The WNA adds on its website that “there is little disturbance and no tailings or waste rock generated.”

The WNA also stated the “orebody” needed to be “permeable to the liquids used, and located so that they do not contaminate groundwater away from the orebody.”

Perry said ENDAUM was contacted by community members in Texas and were told that ISL was not a safe way to mine uranium ore.

Perry said ENDUAM filed a petition asking the NRC to revoke the license.

“Our filing is crucial for the protection of our Diné communities, our people, our homeland, and our culture, Perry said in a statement. “We will stand fort our human rights and not allow our value as Indigenous People to be diminished.

“The federal government must realize that we are not disposable and that water is life.”

Mines identified on the Nation

Council Delegate Kee Allen Begay sponsored a bill asking the Council to support the congressional Senate Bill 2798 and House Bill 5338, “The Radiation Exposure Compensation Act Amendments of 2021.”

“Five-hundred plus uranium mines were identified on the Navajo Nation,” Begay said. “I think the U.S. government and the Navajo Nation truly will need to go back to the table and renegotiate a settlement.

“The Navajo Nation is being led around by Region 9 in San Francisco,” he added. “I don’t see why we can’t pinpoint that out. Why is a non-Navajo EPA, located several thousand miles dictating everything?

“I think it is more feasible to have office here on the reservation.”

Navajo Nation Council Delegate Mark Freeland said during a discussion about uranium echoed Perry’s concerns and said that his fear was that there was “the potential of uranium development on allotted lands.”

“We need to get the BIA involved and have a discussion as to how they stand where they stand on this because that would not be good, if that were to happen in our area especially,” Freeland said. “I’m hopeful that we can look at more cleanup and more remediation efforts.”

The Council voted and passed Begay’s resolution, 22-0, with Pernell Halona and Speaker Seth Damon not voting.

Perry said ENDAUM does not consider nuclear energy as being clean energy because it produces waste and added there was no proof ISL mining returned once pristine water back to its original state.

“As ENDUM, we advocate that we should not cannot use uranium,” Perry said.

Perry said Navajo trust land that surrounds NuFuel’s private property prevents it from transporting the uranium ore from its mine site. So long as Navajo trust land keeps them from mining, they will not contaminate the tribe’s “sacred waters.”

A virtual press conference will be held today from 12:30 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. to “celebrate” their filing to the NRC. Anyone interested can go to: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85439942349, and type in 854-3994-2349 when asked for the meeting ID.


About The Author

Donovan Quintero

"Dii, Diné bi Naaltsoos wolyéhíígíí, ninaaltsoos át'é. Nihi cheii dóó nihi másání ádaaní: Nihi Diné Bizaad bił ninhi't'eelyá áádóó t'áá háadida nihizaad nihił ch'aawóle'lágo. Nihi bee haz'áanii at'é, nihisin at'é, nihi hózhǫ́ǫ́jí at'é, nihi 'ach'ą́ą́h naagééh at'é. Dilkǫǫho saad bee yájíłti', k'ídahoneezláo saad bee yájíłti', ą́ą́ chánahgo saad bee yájíłti', diits'a'go saad bee yájíłti', nabik'íyájíłti' baa yájíłti', bich'į' yájíłti', hach'į' yándaałti', diné k'ehgo bik'izhdiitįįh. This is the belief I do my best to follow when I am writing Diné-related stories and photographing our events, games and news. Ahxéhee', shik'éí dóó shidine'é." - Donovan Quintero is an award-winning Diné journalist, who is based in Window Rock, Arizona. He can be contacted at dq@navajotimes.com.

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