Is the Navajo Mine a Viable Option? Growing Opposition Doesn’t Think So
Yazzie is pushing for drastic action in the Navajo Nation Council, where investigations into fraudulent spending are ongoing. If he fails to get the purchase reversed within council chambers or with help from the Interior Department, Yazzie is prepared to take the matter to court.
Yazzie is just one of many Navajo citizens appealing for intervention from federal leaders. Two grassroots groups of environmental activists also are seeking support from Washington, D.C., to stop or reverse the purchase.
Diné CARE – or Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment – wants to halt the purchase until an environmental impact statement is completed. The Interior Department’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement is preparing that statement, with release expected sometime this spring.
Lori Goodman, treasurer for Diné CARE, fears the statement will reveal significant risks to the environment and to human health. Among those risks, she said, is the 100 million tons of coal ash created by the power plant and contamination of nearby water supplies. This statement is the first to be released in 50 years, Goodman said.
“It might turn out that mining coal is not viable,” she said. “Then there’s a huge liability looming for the Navajo Nation. This could bankrupt us.”
Another grassroots group that has taken stands against fossil fuels is Dooda Desert Rock, an organization that sprang up in response to the tribe’s plans in 2003 to build a coal-fired power plant about 25 miles south of Farmington. The plant, Desert Rock, would have been the third on reservation land, but it failed to come to fruition.
Elouise Brown, president of Dooda, said she opposes the mine purchase for the same reasons she fought against Desert Rock. Brown recently lost her father to health problems linked to his work in uranium mines, and she believes a new generation of disease and death is coming for those who work in the mine.
“Health needs to be the main concern,” she said. “Health of people, the environment and all living creatures.”
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