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License to Mine Uranium on Navajo Lands Upheld

Navajo Times, Cindy Yurth Posted: Mar 12, 2010

CHINLE In a 2 to 1 ruling on Monday, the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of upholding a license that would allow Hydro Resources Inc. (HRI) to mine for uranium on Navajo land, according to a report by The Navajo Times. The decision is the latest chapter in a legal battle that began in 1995, when HRI first proposed to dig at four sites within the boundaries of the Navajo Nation, which some tribal members say should be protected under a 2005 ban on uranium mining.

Activists and researchers opposed to the HRI proposal say the uranium mining, if carried out, could contaminate groundwater and increase radiation in the air, creating a health risk for the Crownpoint and Church Rock communities of New Mexico, whose wells are located next to the proposed mining sites. In his lone dissenting opinion, Judge Carlos F. Lucero wrote that families living in close proximity to the mines will be exposed to levels of radiation that have been deemed unsafe by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's own standards. Despite the court victory, HRI spokesmen said that mining is not due to begin immediately, and community activists have not decided whether or not they will appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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