Pres. Shirley urges: Keep Navajo uranium-free

SANTA FE, N.M. -- Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. has asked New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson to help the Navajo Nation keep its four-month-old prohibition of uranium mining and processing intact.

In a private meeting at the Governor's Cabinet Meeting Room here on Aug. 25, President Shirley informed the Governor of a company's desire to resume uranium mining at Church Rock, N.M., on the Navajo Nation.

The New Mexico Business Weekly reported Aug. 9 that Strathmore Minerals Corp. of Canada had announced that it had opened a uranium mine development office in Santa Fe.

It was reported that Strathmore officials had met with Governor Richardson's office to discuss its plans and that the company hoped to gain state approval to reopen its Church Rock and Roca Honda uranium mines located in McKinley County, which it purchased from Kerr McGee Nuclear and Rio Algom. Church Rock is located on the Navajo Nation.

"The Navajo Nation as a government and a people has said we're not going to have uranium mining on Navajoland or in Navajo Country," President Shirley told Gov. Richardson. "We'd like to see that law stick."

On April 19, the Navajo Nation Council passed the DinŽ Natural Resources Protection Act of 2005 by a vote of 63 to 19. Banning uranium mining was a major plank in President Shirley's campaign platform three years ago and continues to be a significant issue for his Administration.

"Because of exposure to uranium, many of my medicine people have died, many of my elderly have died," the President said. "I'd sure hate to go back there. Too many of my people have died."

President Shirley said Governor Richardson assured him he would not take any action without first consulting with the Navajo Nation.

Thousands of uranium miners and their families have become ill or died through unprotected exposure to uranium mining, contaminated water, tailings and dust. Years of efforts to have them receive compassionate compensation for their illnesses led to more delays, denials and disappointment.

"We've been through too much," President Shirley said of the 65-year-old legacy of uranium mining. "We just don't want it."

In June, President Shirley personally delivered a statement seeking international support for the Navajo Nation uranium mining prohibition to Ahmed Sayyad, Assistant Director-General for External Relations and Cooperation of UNESCO -- the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

In an hour-long meeting at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, President Shirley

discussed the need to protect Navajo sovereignty through respect for the

DinŽ Natural Resources Protection Act of 2005.

President Shirley said he believed "the powers that be committed genocide on

Navajoland by allowing uranium mining."

(George Hardeen is Navajo Nation Communications Director.)

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