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Environmentalists want New Mexico uranium mine blocked

GRANTS, N.M. — Two environmental groups are asking a New Mexico appeals court to review a ruling that would allow uranium to be extracted again from an inactive western New Mexico mine.

The Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment and Amigos Bravos groups have asked the New Mexico Court of Appeals to review a lower court ruling that upheld the New Mexico Mining Commission’s decision allowing renewed mining at the Mount Taylor Mine, the Gallup Independent reports .

In July, state District Judge Francis Mathew affirmed the commission’s decision to reopen the mine.

The New Mexico Mining Act of 1993 allows mines to remain inactive in standby status for a maximum of 20 years before reclamation must be required.

The groups, represented by the New Mexico Environmental Law Center, filed a petition Monday.

The Mount Taylor Mine has been on standby status for more than 20 years. Its owner, Hobson, Texas-based Rio Grande Resources, announced in 2014 that it planned to ask regulators to change the mine’s status to active.

A telephone message left with Rio Grande Resources on Wednesday seeking comment was not immediately returned.

The mine operated from 1980 to 1982 and from 1985 to 1990, before the New Mexico Mining Act came into effect.

The mine’s previous owner, Chevron Resources, sold it to Rio Grande Resources in 1991.

The community of Grants where the Mount Taylor Mine is located was once called the uranium capital of the world. Millions of tons of uranium were mined from the region that includes Navajo Nation, which is still reeling from the decades that the federal government allowed the mining on and around its reservation.

Between the late 1940s and the mid-1980s, about 4 million tons (3.6 million metric tons) of uranium were extracted from mines on the reservation.

At the time, uranium was mined to produce nuclear weapons for World War II and the Cold War.

The ore was removed via conventional underground mining, a practice that allowed uranium to seep into the land and water in the surrounding area.

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Information from: Gallup Independent, http://www.gallupindependent.com

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