MISSION: Southwest Research and Information Center is a multi-cultural organization working to promote the health of people and communities, protect natural resources, ensure citizen participation, and secure environmental and social justice now and for future generations

In the late 1970s, Navajo uranium miners and their families asked for help to show that their lung diseases had been caused by their work in underground uranium mines in the 1940s-1960s. SRIC staff responded with medical and scientific data, in-community education strategies, and legislative support. As a result, Congress adopted legislation in 1990 to compensate former miners and their survivors. Ten years later, with SRIC's on going technical support to advocacy groups, the law was amended to cover virtually all uranium miners who worked before 1971. Currently, the Uranium Impact Assessment Program provides information on mining and community health, the legacy of uranium development, regulatory and policy issues related to remediation of contaminated sites, and current and proposed uranium development.

Uranium Impact Assessment

Despite making great strides in protecting miners' and community health, compensating former miners and their families, and cleaning up uranium mill sites, significant problems stemming from the legacy of uranium development still exist today in the Four Corners Area. Hundreds of abandoned mines have not been cleaned up and present environmental and health risks in many Navajo communities. Health conditions in those communities have never been studied despite being impacted by uranium development that dates back to the late-40s and early-50s.

Some of these same communities are now confronted with proposed new uranium solution mining that threatens the only source of drinking water for 10,000 to 15,000 people living in the Eastern Navajo Agency in northwestern New Mexico. Since 1994, SRIC has worked with those communities and the community-based group, Eastern Navajo Diné Against Uranium Mining (ENDAUM-CCT), to stop the proposed mines through community education, interaction with Navajo Nation leaders, and a seven-year-long legal challenge of the mines' federal license. The work of SRIC, ENDAUM-CCT and their law firms - the New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC) and the Harmon-Curran firm in Washington, D.C. - has erected major roadblocks to the proposed mining, but has not yet terminated the license. Citizen opposition to mining is widespread, and the Navajo Nation leadership recently determined that uranium solution mining is unsafe and that the proposed mines are too risky to the health and environment of the Navajo people.

Against this background, working with Navajo groups and communities to stop new mining and continuing to assess and document the health and environmental effects of past uranium development are the principal focuses of UIAP work.

NAVAJO NATION PRESIDENT SIGNS BILL BANNING URANIUM MINING AND MILLING Crownpoint, N.M., April 29, 2005. Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley, Jr., today signed what is believed to be the first Native American tribal law banning uranium mining and milling. With dozens of community members and dignitaries looking on, Shirley signed the "Diné Natural Resources Protection Act (DNRPA) of 2005, which was passed by the Navajo Nation Council by a vote of 63-19 on April 19. As amended by the Council during floor debate, the act states,
"No person shall engage in uranium mining and processing on any sites within Navajo Indian Country."
The law is based on the Fundamental Laws of the Diné, which are already codified in Navajo statutes. The act finds that based on those fundamental laws, "certain substances in the Earth (doo nal yee dah) that are harmful to the people should not be disturbed, and that the people now know that uranium is one such substance, and therefore, that its extraction should be avoided as traditional practice and prohibited by Navajo law."
See Press Release
UIAP Goals and Objectives

Program Goals:

  1. Build community capacity to address public concerns about new uranium mining proposed in Navajo communities;
  2. disseminate information on the health and environmental impacts of uranium mining and milling to local, regional, national and international audiences;
  3. participate in health studies on the Navajo Reservation and Eastern agency;
  4. assist with community efforts to promote cleanup of uranium contamination that threatens the Red Water Pond Road community near Church Rock and the communities near the Homestake site near Milan.

Program Objectives:

  • In partnership with ENDAUM-CCT and NMELC, continue to participate in state permitting actions regarding Hydro Resources, Inc.’s (HRI) proposed Crownpoint Uranium Solution Mining Project.
  • Continue with the sixth year of the Birth Cohort Study, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to the University of New Mexico Community Environmental Health Program, SRIC, the Navajo Nation Department of Health, and the Indian Health Service to work with young Navajo women and newborn children to identify uranium and other environmental sources of health risks in northwestern New Mexico and northeastern Arizona.
  • Promote implementation of the recommendations for clean up of the Church Rock Uranium facilities and assessments of air impacts from abandoned mines in the Church Rock area.
  • Prepare educational materials (fact sheets, graphics, handouts, slide presentations) for Navajo communities, Navajo leaders, and the general public.
  • Continue working with Navajo Nation officials and community groups to support DNRPA from expected legal challenges and assist other efforts to stop new uranium mining, including working closely with the Acoma Pueblo on permitting actions in the Mt. Taylor Traditional Cultural Property area.
  • Assist communities nationally on health and environmental issues related to uranium mining and milling.

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