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


Sometimes we at SRIC (and many of our long-time supporters and friends) take for granted our understanding of words we use every day that concern environmental issues. Some of these words may not be familiar to all our readers. We are including a glossary in each issue to help all our readers become more familiar with environmental words and phrases. Please let us know if there are other terms you would like explained.

Native Americans who own land ("allotments") they received from grants made by the federal government. Allottees can lease their lands for virtually any purpose, subject to approval by the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Border Environmental Cooperation Commission established in 1993 by the environmental agreement included in NAFTA. Its purpose is to consider applications for, approve and facilitate financing (in cooperation with the North American Development Bank (NADBank)) for sustainable development projects in U.S.-Mexico border communities.
Eastern Navajo Diné Against Uranium Mining is a citizen group formed in 1994 to oppose new uranium mines in Crownpoint and Church Rock communities in New Mexico.
Groundwater discharge
In general, a release of potentially hazardous material that can or has reached usable groundwater. A mill tailings pile is an example of a "groundwater discharge" because the liquid and solid wastes in the pile can release contaminants that can be transported into the underlying rocks that contain groundwater.
Hardrock mines
Mines that extract legally defined "hardrock" minerals, such as gold, silver, copper, lead, nickel, molybdenum and uranium. Coal mines are not "hardrock" mines because coal is not a hardrock mineral as defined by the federal General Mining Law of 1872.
Heavy metals
Trace elements, such as lead, iron, cadmium, copper, mercury, nickel, and chromium, that occur naturally in rock formations and that can become concentrated to reach hazardous levels. These elements do not break down and can accumulate to toxic levels in people or plants. Accumulation of heavy metals in people can occur through eating, drinking or breathing.
In situleach process
Type of mining in which a chemical solution (usually made up of water, dissolved in oxygen and sodium bicarbonate) is pumped into the ground through rock so that uranium or any other valuable element (such as copper) reacts with the solutuion (through oxidization) and can be pumped to the surface so that the uranium can be extracted from the rock.
The process, considered controversial by many, (including natural food advocates) of using radiation to kill bacteria and other germs in food products, in order to lengthen the shelf-life of the product.
Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico is one of three U.S. laboratories that design all U.S. nuclear weapons. LANL designed, produced and tested in New Mexico the two atomic bombs that were dropped on Japan in August 1945.
a factory established in Mexico near the U.S. border specifically to use lower-wage Mexican workers to produce products, primarily to sell in the U.S.
a naturally occurring trace element mined for use primarily in hardening steel and cast iron. In and of itself, molybdenum is not a toxic substance. The environmental concern is how it is mined, where it is mined, and the subsequent effects on the communities in which it is mined.
A wholly owned subsidiary of the oil company, Unocal, that operates one of the nation's largest molybdenum mine near Questa, New Mexico.
The North American Free Trade Agreement, which became law in 1993 when it was enacted by the United States, Canada, and Mexico. NAFTA's purpose, among other things, is to facilitate and increase trade among the three countries.
Paseo del Norte
a roadway running mostly east-west in Albuquerque, New Mexico that may be extended through Petroglyph National Monument.
Pictures drawn on rocks by indigenous people thousands of years ago that depict environmental conditions and cultural practices from everyday life at that time. The reason for the Petroglyph National Monument was to protect thousands of petroglyphs drawn on volcanic rock on the western edge of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
A generic term for wastes or residues of rock from mining or milling operations that typically contain high concentrations of heavy metals. Tailings are composed of sand-sized particles consolidated in large piles containing millions of tons of wastes and often covering hundreds of acres of land at mining and milling sites.
A restriction of the use of privately owned land, or the actual taking of the land through eminent domain by governmental entities, without fair payment and/or without any benefit to the public.
The heaviest naturally occurring trace element and also a naturally occurring radioactive element which spontaneously "decays" into lighter elements. Uranium was originally mined for use as the principal component of atomic bombs. Since about 1971, it has been mined exclusively for use as fuel in nuclear power reactors.
The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, located 26 miles east of Carlsbad, New Mexico, that is the nation's, and the world's, first and only underground storage place for plutonium-contaminated wastes that come from producing nuclear weapons.
World Trade Organization is an international organization formed to develop and enforce worldwide rules to promote international trade, including lowering tariffs and removing national trade barriers that restrict imports or exports of goods and services.
One of the "rare earth" elements mined for use in many electronic products, including televisions, computer monitors, superconductors, microwaves. Mining of yttrium has the same potential as other hardrock mining for land disturbance, waste generation, and release of environmental contaminants.

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– W.H. Murray in The Scottish Himalayan Expedition.

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