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Why Navajos Resist New Uranium Mining.

by Eastern Navajo Diné Against Uranium Mining

On June 17, leaders of a Navajo citizens group from northwestern New Mexico, joined by representatives of a tribal environmental agency, told delegates to the Navajo Nation Council why three new uranium solution mines, proposed for sites near Church Rock and Crownpoint, New Mexico, not only represent a threat to the region's sole source of drinking water, but also pose a direct challenge to Navajo jurisdiction and authority over mineral development in off-reservation, "Indian Country" areas. The historic presentations by Mitchell Capitan and Frank Chee Wiletto, president and vice president, respectively, of Eastern Navajo Dine Against Uranium Mining (ENDAUM), and officials of the Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency (NNEPA), marked the first time that opponents of uranium mining on Navajo lands and tribal regulators addressed a full session of the Council prior to federal approval of proposed mines. The presentation by ENDAUM leaders also signaled the organization's intent to generate reservation wide attention to a possible resurgence of uranium mining in Dinetah, and to it's possible longterm consequences. As Mr. Wiletto told Council delegates, "There may be money in this today, but there'll be health problems in twenty years."

The views of ENDAUM and some of its members are presented in the following article, which has been adapted from a written statement given by Mitchell Capitan to the Council on June 17 and from speeches given by Mr. Capitan and ENDAUM member Billy Martin to a conference on uranium issues at Navajo Community College in Shiprock, New Mexico, on April 9. Background on technical and regulatory matters that complements this article and explanatory footnotes were prepared by Southwest Research and Information Center (SRIC) staff, which has been assisting ENDAUM since early 1995 and is a petitioner, along with ENDAUM and several other organizations, for an evidentiary hearing before the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Atomic Safety and Licensing Board. Readers are directed to previous issues of The Workbook, Volume 20, No. 1 (Spring 1995) and Volume 21, No. 2 (Summer 1996) for additional background. Questions, comments or requests for information can be directed to ENDAUM at 505-786-5341, SRIC at 505-262-1862, or their attorneys at the New Mexico Environmental Law Center, 505-989-9022.

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