Navajo Uranium Mining Ban Under Scrutiny
On Friday, April 30th President Joe Shirley Jr. signed an agreement to ban uranium mining and processing on Navajo lands. The Dine Natural Resources Protection Act was first approved by the Dine council by a vote of 63-19 and the ban enjoys widespread support on the reservation.
"I don't want to subject any more of my people to exposure to uranium and the cancers that it causes," Shirley said during the signing ceremony."As long as there are no answers to cancer, we shouldn't have uranium mining on the Navajo Nation," he added. "I believe the powers that be committed genocide on Navajo land by allowing uranium." The ban also re-enforces Navajo sovereignty over its land, Shirley said.
Hydro Resources Inc. has waged a campaign over the past decade to obtain federal permits to conduct in-situ leach uranium mining and uranium processing. President of HRI, Craig Bartels, has not offered comment on whether HRI would recognize the Navajo Nation's anti-uranium stance and withdraw its petition to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission for license.
The Navajo Nation has the right to ban uranium mining and processing on its land but the question for a federal court is how it defines Navajo Indian land, added Bartels, HRI President, referring to allotted lands where some Navajo owners hope to sign lucrative deals with HRI. A group of Navajo allottees supports HRI.
The nation has lost many precious Navajo medicine people, according to Shirley, who are few in numbers, from health problems related to uranium exposure. The bright yellow earth that contains uranium was widely used in sand painting and traditional healing ceremonies throughout Navajo history, Shirley said.
Bartels said Tuesday that if the council and President Joe Shirley Jr. gave him and his staff the same amount of time they gave to Eastern Navajo Diné Against Uranium Mining, HRI would correct the "misinformation" the environmental group gave them. "We've tried to meet with the council and president but ENDAUM was invited to speak twice at winter and spring session, Bartels said. "And yet as much as we tried, we're not allowed to speak so it's no wonder that there's a lot of misinformation. Certain people have a certain agenda and they're doing all they can to shut out anyone else that has a different agenda," he added. "Basically, it's just a few people, anti-nuclear activists, that say this (in-situ leach uranium mining) is unsafe."