An Aug. 17 meeting of the state Mining and Minerals Division revealed a struggle of uranium cleanup. The New Mexico Environmental Law Center and two nonprofit environmental groups are trying to get Rio Grande Resources Corp. to clean up uranium waste at the Mt. Taylor mine near Grants.

Rio Grande Resources Corp. is trying to renew a permit to leave the mine inactive without remediating the area. Uranium mining began there in 1979 and ceased in 1990; the element was extracted using underground mining techniques that reached 3,000 feet below the ground. According to Rio Grande Resource Corp.'s website, the Mt. Taylor mine is the largest uranium resource in the US and produced 8 million pounds of uranium before it was put on its current "standby" status.

If NMELC's efforts are unsuccessful, Rio Grande Resources Corp. will be able to leave waste at the site for another five years. The National Trust for Historic Preservation listed Mt. Taylor as one of America's most endangered places beginning in 2009. It also has been listed in the state's register of cultural properties after petitioning from several Native American tribes that consider the area sacred.

Editor's note: Click here for updated information on the Mt. Taylor cleanup negotiations.