Case Work: Land, Water

Proposed Crownpoint Uranium Mine

LOCATION: Church Rock, Crownpoint
INITIATION DATE: September 1996
CLIENTS/PARTNERS: Eastern Navajo Diné Against Uranium Mining (ENDAUM) and the Southwest Research and Information Center (SRIC)
OPPOSING PARTIES: Hydro Resources Inc.
STATUS: Ongoing


Two decades ago, Crownpoint resident Mitchell Capitan worked as a groundwater technician for the MobilOil pilot-scale in-situ leach (ISL) uranium mine near his home. He saw first-hand, month after month, that MobilOil could not clean up the water that it polluted with the process.

When he learned that Hydro Resources, Inc. sought to open a new ISL mine near his home, he organized his neighbors into the Eastern Navajo Diné Against Uranium Mining (ENDAUM – see videos below from two ENDAUM members).  Two years later, in 1996, they approached the New Mexico Environmental Law Center for legal assistance.  We have represented ENDAUM ever since.

It’s been an historic case, with work at the local, state, national and international levels.  The stakes are high: the Westwater Canyon Aquifer currently supplies approximately 15,000 residents of the Eastern Agency of the Navajo Nation.  In addition, the tribal water planners declared that the aquifer will be an important future source of water to meet growing demands in the future.  The mines and processing plant would also add radioactive air emissions to an airshed that already exceeds federal air quality standards for radiation.


“If these mines succeed in opening, it will send a chilling message to communities near uranium ore: uranium is worth more than your water … more than your air … more than you and your neighbors.”


Millions of gallons of potential drinking water.

Christine’s Fight Against Uranium Mining

“It’s not over.” 13 Years Fighting Uranium in NM

DreamingNewMexico, Oct 10 2008

Watch the ENDAUM v. U.S. Filing Day Press Conference Here:


The petition filed with the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights is the first time the NRC has ever been called out on human rights violations.


2/19/2024 – Announcement: IACHR Grants Thematic Hearing on Impacts to Indigenous Peoples’ Human Rights from Uranium Exploitation

1/16/2024 – ENDAUM & NMELC Submit Supplemental Letter to IACHR

12/3/2023 – ENDAUM & NMELC Submit Request for a Thematic Hearing to IACHR

12/8/2022 – ENDAUM & NMELC Submit Request for a Thematic Hearing to IACHR 12-8-22 Request for U Thematic Hearing FINAL

10/21/2021 – Navajo Nation Proclamation Supporting ENDAUM Petition. Navajo Nation Proclamation.

10/21/2021 – Additional observations filed with the IACHR. ENDAUM Additional Observations Package.

07/16/2021 – Petition accepted for merits hearing. Petition on Dine Human Rights Violations Accepted for Merits Hearing

03/28/2021- IACHR issues admissibility report. Report on Admissibility Petition 654-11

01/05/2016 – WQCC vacate’s discharge permit 558 review. WQCC order vacating discharge permit 558 review
12/15/2015 – NMED issues notice of termination of discharge permit 558. NMED notice and Secretary Ryan Flynn’s letter of termination of discharge permit 558
09/24/2015 – Navajo Nation files comments in opposition to Draft Discharge Permit No. 558. Navajo Nation comments in opposition to DP 558
08/17/2015 – NMELC submits comments on behalf of ENDAUM challenging renewal of discharge permit DP 558. ENDAUM comments challenging renewal of discharge permit DP 558
08/06/2012 – NMELC sends letter to EPA Acting Administrator Coleman regarding aquifer exemption issued to Hydro Resources, Inc. for Church Rock Section 8. Letter to EPA regarding Aquifer Exemption
03/08/2012 – Arguments heard on Summary Judgement. Judge decides not to rule on the merits of case because the case is not ripe yet.
10/11/2011 – ENDAUM requests hearing on motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff’s Request for Hearing on Motion for Summary Judgement.
09/01/2011 – ENDAUM requests judgment that the NMED has no authority to accept HRI’s application as a discharge permit renewal. Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgement.
07/15/2011 – NMELC files Plaintiff’s Motion for Preliminary Injunction and supporting documents for client, ENDAUM. Plaintiff’s Motion for Preliminary Injunction, Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief – Statement of the Case and Plaintiff’s Memorandum in Support of Motion for Preliminary Injunction.
06/27/2011 – On behalf of ENDAUM, NMELC filed a letter demanding New Mexico Environment Department issue a notice to HRI that their discharge permit has not been renewed based on documents obtained that show high-ranking employees of the NMED have been improperly influencing regulatory decisions of the Groundwater Quality Bureau. Demand Letter sent to NMED.
05/13/2011 – NMELC files a petition with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights seeking to halt a uranium mining operation in the Navajo villages of Church Rock and Crownpoint, N.M. ENDAUM’s final petition to the Inter-American Commission Human Rights. IACHR petition Addenda 1-3 IACHR_petition_Addendum 4.  IACHR petition Addendum 5. IACHR petition Addendum 6. IACHR_petition_Addendum 7

11/15/2010 – U.S. Supreme Court denies review of decision to allow in situ leach (ISL) uranium mining in the Church Rock and Crownpoint communities.
09/15/2010 – NMELC files an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals decision to allow in situ leach (ISL) uranium mining in the Church Rock and Crownpoint communities.
05/18/2010 – The 10th Federal Circuit Appeals Court denies request for En Banc Rehearing.
04/22/2010 – NMELC files Petition for Panel or En Banc Rehearing to the 10th Federal Circuit Appeals Court.
03/08/2010 – The 10th Federal Circuit Appeals Court in Denver, CO returned with their decision upholding the NRC license allowing HRI to mine for uranium in Crownpoint’s municipal water supply.
05/12/2008 – Oral arguments are heard in 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, CO. Currently we are waiting to hear judges decision.


Read documents online:

09/15/2010 – Filed Petition for Certiorari—Morris v NRC
05/18/2010 – 10th Circuit Court Order Denying En Banc Rehearing
04/22/2010 – Petitioners’ Petition for Panel or En Banc Rehearing
03/08/2010 – Federal 10th Circuit Appeals Court Opinion. Judge Carlos F. Lucero’s dissent.
11/05/2007 – Petitioner’s Reply Brief
06/22/2007 – Petitioner’s Opening Brief