“We live everyday with environmental legacy from past uranium mining. The termination of this permit means we won’t face new mining anytime soon.”
Larry J. King, ENDAUM
SANTA FE, NM — A state groundwater discharge permit for a controversial uranium mine proposed near Church Rock, NM has been officially terminated. Mining cannot begin at the site without a valid permit.
DP-558, originally issued in 1989, allowed Hydro Resources, Inc. (now Uranium Resources, Inc.) to discharge contaminated water into the aquifer as part of its mining operation. The permit expired in 1996. Although the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) received a renewal application from Hydro Resources in 1996, the agency did not act on the application until the summer of 2015 – 19 years after the company submitted its renewal application.
Despite strong opposition from the Eastern Navajo Diné Against Uranium Mining (ENDAUM), the Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment (MASE) and the Navajo Nation Department of Justice, NMED renewed the permit in October 2015.
In November, the renewal was appealed to the State Water Quality Control Commission by the New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC) on behalf of ENDAUM. Shortly after the appeal was filed, NMED Secretary Flynn terminated the permit, stating that contamination levels allowed in the 1989 permit would no longer meet New Mexico’s uranium groundwater standard. (The standard was reduced in 2004 from 5,000 micrograms/liter to 30 micrograms/liter.)
“This is a major victory for ENDAUM, in our long pursuit in protecting our precious groundwater,” said Larry J. King. “We live everyday with environmental legacy from past uranium mining. The termination of this permit means we won’t face new mining anytime soon.”
“After NMED spent years fighting to preserve this application, we are glad that the agency has finally agreed that this permit is no longer valid,” says NMELC Staff Attorney Eric Jantz, who challenged the permit in state district court in 2010 and worked with ENDAUM to submit comments on the application in August 2015.
Prior to the renewal of the permit, the Navajo Nation Department of Justice also stated in comments that NMED should deny the permit renewal. Its letter states that the Westwater Canyon Aquifer, where Hydro Resources, Inc. (now Uranium Resources, Inc.) proposes to mine “is seen as a promising source of drinking water in the future due to its high quality.”
ENDAUM, MASE and NMELC will continue to challenge any new uranium mining that would impair the quality of groundwater or degrade air quality for Diné communities.
INTERVIEWS ARE AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST
The Eastern Navajo Diné Against Uranium Mining is a grassroots group opposing construction of the Crownpoint Uranium Project, a uranium in situ leach (ISL) mining operation proposed for two sites in Churchrock Chapter and two in Crownpoint Chapter of the Navajo Nation. http://swuraniumimpacts.org/eastern-navajo-dine-against-uranium-mining/
The New Mexico Environmental Law Center is a not-for-profit law firm dedicated to protecting the communities and environment of New Mexico through legal representation, policy advocacy, and public education. It was founded in 1987, and has represented ENDAUM since 1996. http://www.nmelc.org
The Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment is rooted in the experiences of uranium-impacted communities of the southwestern U.S. We are communities working to restore and protect the natural and cultural environment through respectfully promoting intercultural engagement among communities and institutions for the benefit of all life and future generations. http://www.swuraniumimpacts.org