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EPA Awards $220 Million For Abandoned Uranium Mine Cleanup On Navajo Nation

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded three major contracts for the cleanup of abandoned uranium mines on the Navajo Nation. The projects are also designed to create jobs and benefit the tribe’s economy. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports.

The EPA says the cleanup at 50 mine sites will employ Navajo tribal members and start local workforce training programs in radiological contamination, construction and other areas. The contracts totaling $220 million over the next five years went to companies with experience at abandoned mine sites in the Southwest, and two are Native American-owned.

Most of the funding comes from a 2015 billion-dollar federal settlement with the Kerr McGee and Tronox companies, and will be concentrated in New Mexico’s Grants Mining District and 10 Navajo chapters. Work on the cleanup effort is slated to begin later this year.

The EPA says it’s also secured funding though agreements and legal settlements to remediate 200 additional sites in the area. In all, there are more than 500 abandoned uranium mines on and near the Navajo Nation left over from the Cold War when 30 million tons of uranium were extracted. Only a small number of the sites to date have been cleaned up.

Ryan joined KNAU's newsroom 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 frequent contributor to NPR.
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