US begins cleanup of uranium mines on Navajo land

19 October 2017

The US Environmental Protection Agency on 11 October awarded Tetra Tech a $85m contract to assess the uranium contamination at 30 abandoned uranium mines in and around the Navajo Nation. Some of the funding for the contract comes from a $1bn settlement reached in 2015 for the cleanup of over 50 abandoned uranium mines for which Kerr McGee Corporation and its successor, Tronox, are responsible. 

US federal agencies are working with the Navajo Nation to clean up over 500 abandoned uranium mines on or adjacent to the Navajo lands which produced uranium during the Cold War.  From 1944 to 1986, approximately 30m tons of uranium ore was mined on or near the reservation.

Tetra Tech will team up with Navajo Technical University to train tribal members for work related to assessment and cleanup of the sites. Under the contract, the company will also launch an internship programme for students and form partnerships with the Navajo Engineering and Construction Authority and local businesses.

Navajo Nation Council Delegate Kee Allen Begay Jr said residents have experienced health issues as a result of the abandoned uranium mines. "It is good news, but we should keep in mind that there are still people living with health issues every day due to abandoned mines and there are still many mines that present danger to our people," he said in a press release.

Photo: Work at the Old Gulf Mine in Navajo Nation (Credit US EPA)

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