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‘Ignored for 70 Years’: Human Rights Group to Investigate Uranium Contamination on Navajo Nation via Reader Supported News (Guardian)

Rita Capitan has been worrying about her water since 1994. It was that autumn she read a local newspaper article about another uranium mine, the Crownpoint Uranium Project, getting under way near her home.

Capitan has spent her entire life in Crownpoint, New Mexico, a small town on the eastern Navajo Nation, and is no stranger to the uranium mining that has persisted in the region for decades. But it was around the time the article was published that she began learning about the many risks associated with uranium mining.

“We as community members couldn’t just sit back and watch another company come in and just take what is very precious to us. And that is water – our water,” Capitan said.

To this effect, Capitan and her husband, Mitchell, founded Eastern Navajo Diné Against Uranium Mining (Endaum). The group’s fight against uranium mining on their homeland has continued for nearly three decades, despite the industry’s disastrous health and environmental impacts being public knowledge for years.

Capitan’s newest concerns are over the Canadian mining company Laramide Resources, which, through its US subsidiary NuFuels, holds a federal mining license for Crownpoint and nearby Church Rock. Due to the snail’s pace at which operations like this can move, Laramide hasn’t begun extraction in these areas, but is getting closer by the day.

While the US legal system hasn’t given them much recourse to fight the mining, Capitan and other community members see new hope in the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

Endaum and the New Mexico Environmental Law Center made a substantial evidence filing last week with the commission, alleging that the US government and its Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) have violated their human rights by licensing uranium mines in their communities.

The petition with the commission won’t necessarily offer Endaum legal recourse. However, a favorable recommendation could help them in future legal proceedings against uranium mine projects while also guiding future advocacy on mining policy, said Eric Jantz, senior staff attorney at the New Mexico Environmental Law Center.

He said it would also be a form of vindication: “There is moral value in having an international human rights body lay bare the abuses of the nuclear industry and the US government’s complicity in those abuses.”

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