Case Work: Land

Mount Taylor Mine Return to Active Status

LOCATION: Mount Taylor
CLIENTS/PARTNERS: Amigos Bravos and Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment (MASE)
OPPOSING PARTIES: New Mexico Mining and Minerals Division, Rio Grande Resources
STATUS: Ongoing


The Cold War-era Mount Taylor uranium mine stopped producing ore in 1990. Rio Grande Resources received its first Standby permit in 1999. Under the 1993 New Mexico Mining Act, operators are allowed a maximum of 20 years in Standby status through up to 4 permits of 5 years maximum each. Standby allows an operator to temporarily halt production without having to close and cleanup its mine while waiting for conditions to improve so production can start again. The operator is supposed to prevent contamination from leaving the mine site, but the Mt Taylor mine continues to leak contamination into groundwater. This case is significant because of the culturally-sensitive lands that the mine impacts and because it includes a potentially precedent-setting test of how the Mining Act is enforced against “zombie” mines – mines that are neither operational nor cleaning up. In December 2019, Rio Grande Resources suddenly announced it was closing the mine and would move to remediate the site.



03/25/2020 – The NM Court of Appeals denied our clients’ petition for a writ for certiorari (request to review a lower court decision) regarding the District Court’s ruling on our appeal of the Mining Commission decision to allow Mt Taylor mine to return to active status. Even though Rio Grande Resources has decided to close the mine, the case raised important issues about the process for mines going into “standby” status and coming back into “active” status
12/03/2019 – In a surprise move, Rio Grande Resources notified the Mining and Minerals Division that it was closing the Mt Taylor mine and would son begin reclamation procedures. Read our press release.
02/28/2019 – We filed our Statement of Appellate Issues with the First Judicial District Court
08/24/2018 – Our clients appealed the Mining Commission decision to the First Judicial District Court
07/27/2018 – The Mining Commission issued its Final Order explaining the basis for its July 2017 decision to uphold the return to active permit for the Mt Taylor mine. The Order allowed a mining permit even when no actual ore production will take place. The Law Center and its clients, MASE and Amigos Bravos, issued a statement commenting on the Commission’s decision.
07/17/2018 – The Mining Commission upheld the Active permit; John Heaton, Chair of the Commission, was forced to recuse himself after public comment at the hearing revealed a conflict of interest because of his leading role in promoting the Holtec interim nuclear waste storage facility in SE New Mexico.
02/28/2018 – MASE & Amigos Bravos filed a Petition for Review of the permit approval. Press Release
01/04/2018 – The Mining and Minerals Division Director issued Rio Grande Resources a return to Active permit. Press Release
01/04/2016 – MASE and Amigos Bravos filed a Post Hearing Submission