Heinrich Discusses Gold King Mine Spill Impacts On Navajo Nation In Indian Affairs Committee, Calls For Hardrock Mining Reform

"For far too long, Indian Country has been left to fend for itself in dealing with the impacts of mining."

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Sept. 16, 2015) - Today, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) spoke at a U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs oversight hearing on the Gold King Mine spill, which caused a large plume of bright orange toxic waste to spill into the Animas and San Juan Rivers and pollute the Four Corners region last month. The committee examined the impacts the spill had on Indian Country, including the Navajo Nation, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) response to the accident. Witnesses for the hearing included EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye.

In his opening statement, Senator Heinrich discussed his visit to affected areas in northwestern New Mexico and the harmful impacts the accident has had on the Navajo Nation. He also highlighted the need for reforms to federal mining laws to end once and for all the practice of giving away valuable minerals on America's public land, for free, without a plan to address a century of pollution from abandoned mines.

During the hearing, Senator Heinrich asked about the EPA's response following the accident and how that effort was communicated to Colorado, New Mexico, and Navajo Nation--which fall in three separate EPA regions--and the lessons the agency learned.

Senator Heinrich also discussed the need for Superfund designation in the Upper Animas River watershed to allow the EPA and the state of Colorado to work on long-term cleanup of abandoned mines polluting downstream communities. 

A full list of witnesses and archived video can be found here.