IF YOU GO

What: Uranium mining panel discussion

When: 7 p.m. today

Where: San Juan College, 4601 College Blvd., in the Little Theatre in the Central Classroom Complex

Cost: Free admission

More info: For more information about the One Book, One Community program and other events, contact Traci Halesvass at 505-566-3950 or visit sanjuancollege.edu/onebook.

FARMINGTON — A panel discussion tonight will focus on uranium mining and its effects on the San Juan Basin.

It's part of a series of events for San Juan College's One Book, One Community selection this year.

This year's selection is "Yellowcake" by Ann Cummins, a fiction book that focuses on two families about 20 years after the closure of Shiprock's uranium mill. The book follows the families at they deal with illnesses and pending lawsuits.

Traci HalesVass, the One Book, One Community committee director, said the panel will speak about the effects of uranium mining.

"Some people say it's OK to mine for uranium; others say it's not," HalesVass said. "We'll be teaching about this area, not only the past and how people were dealing with it and affected by it but also how they are now."

The panel is comprised of experts in the field, including Nina Benally, Timothy Benally, Doug Brugge and Michael Darmody.

Brugge is currently a professor at Tufts University School of Medicine and has conducted research on the effect of uranium mining and processing on Native Americans. He has also testified about uranium contamination on the Navajo Nation before the House of Representatives' Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Bruggee said his work researching uranium started in the Shiprock area. He said the topic is important to him, so he seizes opportunities to speak about it when he can.

"I hope it raises awareness in a group of college students -- the next generation," Brugge said. "Knowledge gets lost so easily from generation to generation, you have to keep working at it."

Timothy Benally contributed to two books on uranium miners. As a legal assistant, Nina Benally has conducted more than 100 interviews with families who had illnesses related to uranium exposure.

Doug Brugge
Doug Brugge (Courtesy of Tufts University)

San Juan College adjunct instructor Michael Darmody wrote his graduate thesis on the uranium industry, tracing its effect from the Navajo Nation to California.

San Juan College English professor Kari Deswood, who is also part of the One Book, One Community committee, said she hopes both the public and the college's students attend tonight's panel discussion.

"It's not a dead issue, uranium exposure, effects and compensation," Deswood said. "These are relevant issues people are still dealing with every day."

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 and jkellogg@daily-times.com. Follow him @jkelloggdt on Twitter.