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Groups Organizing Against Navajo Nation Uranium Mining

The Associated Press
    GALLUP— Activists are fighting the possibility of increased uranium mining on the Navajo reservation.
    The McKinley Community Health Alliance, which held a forum Monday on the history of uranium mining in the area, cited the 1979 collapse of an earthen dam at a United Nuclear Corporation settling pond in Church Rock that released 94 million gallons of radioactive wastewater and 1,100 tons of uranium tailings.
    Alliance representative Jana Gunnell said people in the area need to say no to uranium companies now, "so that we're not in a position to say, 'Oh no, not again.' ''
    Uranium brings in more than $50 per pound, and companies are pursuing new mine locations, including the Colorado Plateau and the eastern part of the Navajo Nation.
    Eastern Navajo Dine Against Uranium Mining has raised concerns about possible ground water pollution at proposed sites near Church Rock and Crownpoint, where Hydro Resources Inc. wants to inject chemicals into the ground to release uranium and pump the solution to the surface in a process called in situ leaching.
    The anti-mining group, which has been fighting the plans for more than a decade, is concerned about how in situ mining might affect an aquifer that supplies drinking water to 15,000 people.
    Mansel Nelson, program coordinator for Northern Arizona University's Environmental Education Outreach Program, said the process does not produce the piles of uranium tailings debris of conventional mining and keeps miners safer because they don't have to go underground.
    However, Nelson said that there's a danger dissolved uranium might seep out of the mine area. And he said companies' records in cleaning up in situ sites is not encouraging.
    Chris Shuey, director of uranium impact assessment for the Albuquerque-based Southwest Research and Information Center, said there are few lasting gains from the past uranium mining booms.
    Decades after mining in the 1950s and 1960s, hundreds of abandoned mines have not been restored and thousands of reservation residents are still waiting on compensation claims, he said.



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