United States | New Mexico | Grants : General Atomics Corp.
A sacred place, threatened by uranium mining
Located in the southwestern corner of New Mexico’s San Mateo Mountains, Mount Taylor is a pilgrimage site for at least 30 Native American tribes. It is sacred to many tribes, including the Navajo Nation, the Hopi, the Zuni, and the nearby Laguna and Acoma Pueblos. Mount Taylor is rooted in the history and traditions of many of these tribes.
Mount Taylor has been listed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as one of America's eleven most endangered historic places.
The Mount Taylor Mine
The mountain sits atop one of the richest known reserves (Grants Uranium Belt) of uranium ore in the country. It is estimated that the Mount Taylor mine contains over 100 million pounds of uranium. This resource has spurred previous uranium booms in the area, one in the 1950s and another in the 1970s.
With the current increase in uranium prices, the New Mexico Mining and Minerals Division continues to receive proposals for exploration, mining and milling at the Mount Taylor site
The currently proposed mine is owned by Rio Grande Resources, a subsidiary of General Atomics Corporation. The Mount Taylor mine was previously a conventional mining operation and is planned to operate as a conventional mine in the future.
Environmental and cultural concerns
General Atomics Corporation, also owns the Colorado Superfund site Cotter Uranium Mill (link to Cotter Mill information). Since opening in 1958, Cotter mill has had a long list of toxic spills and violating Colorado environmental regulations.
Land: A lot of the land in question is still governed by the 1872 Mining Law, which permits mining regardless of its impact on cultural or natural resources. Many local tribes fear the development of uranium resources in the Mount Taylor region would destroy the culturally and spiritually significant land.
Water: Uranium mining may also contaminate the Acoma’s primary water resource, the Rio San Jose. The Rio San Jose is not only a water resource for the local communities, but has cultural significance as well.
The Mount Taylor project is still in the permitting process. In May 2010 the Colorado legislature passed a law forbidding an expansion or increase in operations at uranium mills until they clean up existing sites. The Cotter Mill, is planned to be the designated recipient of the future Mount Taylor uranium ore. Today, the Mount Taylor operations are on standby.
For more information:
- High Country News: A tribal attempt to protect Mount Taylor sparks a battle over ancient claims to land
- National Trust for Historic Preservation: 11 Most Endangered Historic Places: Mount Taylor
- New Mexico Independent: Proposed Mount Taylor uranium mine faces new obstacle. May 10, 2010