Apr. 26, 2005 – An overwhelming majority of the Navajo Nation Council voted last week to block uranium mining on Navajo lands, cutting off extraction of the radioactive material from large swathes of Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah.
The Councilâ€™s 63 to 19 vote put an official stamp on efforts by regional groups to bar mining companies from taking advantage of up to $30 million in federal subsidies potentially provided by the not yet passed 2005 Energy Act to develop "in situ" uranium mining -- a process of pumping the uranium out using thousands of gallons of water and a special solution. Pit mining is banned by the Navajo vote as well.
Now Native activists are pushing to overturn the portion of the energy bill that stipulates the subsidies, and they have help from New Mexico Congressman Tom Udall, a Democrat, who has offered an amendment to strike the subsidies from the legislation.
Native American activist, writer and former Green Party vice presidential candidate Winona LaDuke called on the Council and other native people to build on the vote and begin developing wind and solar energy resources.
American Indians in the Four Corners region and other states east of the Rocky Mountains have suffered for years from long-term health and environmental affects of the uranium mining that dotted Native lands during Americaâ€™s nuclear obsession at the start of the Cold War. Generations of Navajo communities grew up scarred by cancers and birth defects. By the early 1980s, the US Department of the Interior counted a thousand "significant nuclear waste sites" on Navajo lands.