ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - On June 13th, the Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment (MASE) filed over 500 pages of comments with the U. S. Forest Service urging the agency choose the “No Action” alternative when evaluating the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the proposed Roca Honda uranium mine. MASE, represented by the New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC), state the draft EIS suffers from numerous errors and omissions, and violates the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
“The forest service admits they will break federal NEPA laws and other laws designed to protect human health by permitting the Roca Honda mine,” says Nadine Padilla, MASE Coordinator. “They erroneously believe they have to permit the mine, and that’s not the case. MASE believes we need to protect our local water sources instead of letting companies destroy it.” Visit case page
The Roca Honda mine is a conventional underground uranium mine proposed on Mount Taylor, north of Grants, NM. The project is a partnership between the Canadian company Strathmore Minerals and the Japanese company Sumitomo. Mt. Taylor was permanently listed in the State Register of Cultural Properties by the Cultural Properties Review Committee in 2009 because of its significance to Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities.
The filed comments outline many issues with the Draft EIS including:
* The mine will waste New Mexico’s water. Roca Honda is proposing to pump and use millions of gallons of water a day to operate the mine. This water will be pumped from the underground aquifer that local communities will rely on in the future.
* Cumulative impacts were not fully evaluated. The Forest Service failed completely to analyze the impacts of having a new uranium mine, that will produce radioactive and other pollution, in a community that is already burdened by scores of unreclaimed mines, uranium superfund sites, and radioactive contamination.
* Mt. Taylor is a sacred site that needs to be protected. Mt. Taylor is a place of great spiritual significance to the Acoma, Laguna, Zuni and Navajo people. It is central to oral history stories and ceremonies, and it plays a vital role in cosmology and religious practices. The 1872 Mining Act does not trump every other law, as the Forest Service asserts, and permitting the Roca Honda mine would violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the Executive Order on Native access to sacred sites, and the Forest Service’s own Forest Management Plan.
* There is no mill to process the uranium. Roca Honda proposes to open their mining operation with no plan on what to do with the uranium once it is mined. There is only one operating mill in the United States, which is not taking any additional ore to process. The impacts of transporting radioactive and toxic uranium ore through communities in New Mexico, Colorado, and/or Utah to be milled have also not been evaluated. (Get full comments) (Read comments submitted by the EPA)
“There has been no remediation of past pollution by old uranium mining companies and these families live with the radioactivity and toxins every day,” says Eric Jantz, NMELC Staff Attorney. “Now, the Forest Service wants to permit a new uranium mine to move in with no real checks on what the mining company plans to do. Legally, the Forest Service doesn’t have to allow this.”
In addition to urging the Forest Service to adopt the “no action” alternative under NEPA, MASE is also urging the Forest Service to prepare and submit for public review a revised Draft Environmental Impact Statement and not simply issue a Final EIS.
INTERVIEWS AND IMAGES ARE AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST
Coordinator, Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment
Staff Attorney, New Mexico Environmental Law Center
The mission of the Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment is rooted in the experiences of uranium-impacted communities of the southwestern U.S. We are communities working to restore and protect the natural and cultural environment through respectfully promoting intercultural engagement among communities and institutions for the benefit of all life and future generations.
The mission of the New Mexico Environmental Law Center is to protect New Mexico’s natural environment and achieve environmental justice for New Mexico’s communities through legal representation, policy advocacy and public education. The New Mexico Environmental Law Center’s attorneys have handled over 100 critical cases in low-income and minority communities fighting pollution and environmental degradation. The NMELC charges few, if any, fees to its clients, most of who are from Hispanic and Native American communities. The NMELC is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year! Membership and gifts help New Mexico communities protect their natural environment and their health from toxic pollution, the degrading effects of growth and liabilities created by irresponsible mining.