Uranium mining’s past colors Mount Taylor Mine’s future
By Kathy Helms May 16, 2018
Cibola County Bureau firstname.lastname@example.org
GRANTS — Christine Lowery, of Paguate Village, was 4 years old when uranium mining began at Anaconda Mineral Company’s Jackpile-Paguate Mine. She has seen the effects it has had on community members. She doesn’t want San Mateo residents living next to Mount Taylor Mine to suffer a similar fate through a restart of mining.
The Jackpile mine operated 1953-1982. In December 2013, it was finally added to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Priorities List for cleanup – something Lowery is not likely to see in her lifetime.
Lowery shared her experience with the New Mexico Mining Commission at a two-day hearing May 7-8 in Santa Fe. Petitioners Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment and Amigos Bravos challenged a permit signed Dec. 29 by the director of the New Mexico Mining and Minerals Division, allowing the Mount Taylor Mine to emerge from standby status. The groups contend that Rio Grande Resources, owner of the mine, has postponed cleanup by obtaining permits allowing it to remain on standby for two decades.
“I come from the Pueblo of Laguna, and while we had jobs for one generation, it has left us with a legacy that we will live with for countless generations to come,” Lowery said. “I have chosen not to have children because I know how hard it is going to be for those grandchildren, and their children that are coming. I know that there is never going to be enough cleanup. The Superfund cleanup – I will be dead and buried in uranium dust before this is done.”
“There is no such thing as reclamation. You can never put things back. In the old days, even the sheepherders knew how dangerous this area was and they would not take their sheep up there to graze because the sheep would get sick. Yes, we were rich in uranium, and we have been sacrificed,” she said. “This whole region that you have heard about is pockmarked with holes that are bringing up poison; and we will never, ever be the same.”