Navajo Nation leaders and federal officials recently toured an abandoned uranium mine on the reservation. The trip highlighted the continued threats posed by radioactive pollution and the massive cleanup effort required to remediate hundreds of such mines. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports.
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez along with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan and Arizona Democratic Congressman Tom O’Halleran, among others, met in Cameron last Thursday. They toured a 31.5-acre abandoned uranium mine located within a mile of 50 homes and three miles from the Little Colorado River. It’s among several in the area and one of more than 500 on the Navajo Nation, though the tribe’s EPA estimates that number could be far higher.
Tribal officials pressed for more funding and resources. About $1.7 billion is currently available for cleanup of less than half of the known mines, but they say more than 300 remain unaddressed. According to the tribe, the mines are to blame for myriad environmental and long-term health problems throughout the reservation.
About 30 million tons of uranium ore were extracted on the Navajo Nation between 1944 and 1986 to support the Manhattan Project and other Cold War-era nuclear programs.