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EPA Contract Awarded for Abandoned Uranium Mine Cleanup on Navajo Nation


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded a contract to assess abandoned uranium mines on and near the Navajo Nation. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports, it’ll include 30 mine sites. 

The $85 million contract was awarded to the engineering company Tetra Tech. As part of a 2015 legal settlement, it’ll fund the initial phase of what’s expected to be a years-long cleanup of some of the more than 500 abandoned uranium mines on the Navajo Nation.

Tetra Tech will partner with Navajo Technical University to train tribal members in uranium waste cleanup. It’ll also start an internship program to give students technical work experience.

Credit U.S. EPA
EPA crews grade and cover a uranium mine waste pile in 2009.

“For decades, Navajo people have continued to suffer from the effects of uranium mining and today’s announcement will help to determine what type of cleanup efforts will be needed at abandoned uranium sites,” says Navajo Council Speaker LoRenzo Bates.  

Credit U.S. EPA
There are more than 500 abandoned uranium mines on the Navajo Nation. During the Cold War, nearly 30 million tons of uranium was mined there for use in nuclear weapons.

Abandoned uranium mines have been associated with elevated levels of radiation in drinking water and widespread health problems on the Navajo Nation.

Nearly 30 million tons of uranium was mined on and near the reservation for use in nuclear weapons during the Cold War. 

Ryan Heinsius was named interim news director and managing editor in January 2024. He joined KNAU's newsroom as an executive producer in 2013. He covers a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Public Media Journalists Association Award winner, and a frequent contributor to NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and national newscast.
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