Mining may continue on Navajo Reservation, court rules

This abandoned uranium mine site near Cameron, Ariz., on the Navajo Nation is one of more than 500 on the reservation./
Credit National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has thrown out a bid by environmental groups to challenge expanded coal mining on the Navajo Reservation that powers the Four Corners Power Plant, reports Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services via Arizona Capitol Times.

The court ruled Monday any legal action contesting the decisions of the federal government to grant the necessary permits must also include the Navajo Transitional Energy Co. That is the entity that purchased the mine from a private firm, which had been operating on the reservation.

But here’s the thing, Fischer writes.

President Obama appointee Judge Michelle Friedland, writing for the unanimous three-judge panel, pointed out the company is wholly owned by the Navajo Nation. And she said the tribe has sovereign immunity, meaning it cannot be sued.The ruling, unless overturned, likely leaves challengers without a legal remedy to shut down the operations. But Friedland said that, given the tribe’s reliance on the mine and the money it generates, it would be unfair to allow the case to proceed without the tribal company

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