Supreme Court denies review of Navajo uranium case

The United States Supreme Court refused to review a 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals decision that allows in situ leach uranium mining in Church Rock and Crownpoint communities in northwestern New Mexico.

The New Mexico Environmental Law Center in Santa Fe, who represented the plaintiffs, said the case “marks the first time that a community has sued the Nuclear Regulatory Commission over the issuance of an ISL uranium mining license.”

The Center claims this is the first time “that the NRC has issued a license for mining in a high-quality drinking water aquifer, despite the fact that no ISL mines have ever been reclaimed to pre-mining condition.”

The 10th Circuit upheld the NRC license that allows Hydro Resources Inc. to mine for uranium in an aquifer that serves as a community drinking water supply. Citizens of the Navajo Nation, the Eastern Navajo Diné Against Uranium Mining, the Southwest Research and Information Center, Albuquerque, N.M. and others have fought the uranium mining interests for more than two decades, because they fear the ISL operation will contaminate the sole drinking water source for 15,000 Navajo area residents.

The in situ leach process injects water and chemicals into an underground aquifer to dissolve uranium into the liquid solution and then pumps it out to collect the ore.

The mining will take place in Indian communities adjoining the Navajo Nation reservation lands. The Diné Natural Resources Protection Act of 2005 bans uranium mining outright because of potential economic detriment and environmental damage.

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