An official website of the United States government.

Navajo Nation: Cleaning Up Abandoned Uranium Mines

Section 9 Lease Mines

The Section 9 Lease Mines are three abandoned uranium mine sites located near the Little Colorado River in Northern Arizona. The mines are located just outside the Navajo Nation and are about 10 miles southeast of Cameron, AZ. Under a 2016 Administrative Order on Consent, Babbitt Ranches agreed to perform a Removal Site Evaluation on the two mines on their property.

Background

Site Facts

  • The Section 9 Lease mines are three separate abandoned uranium mines.
  • The remnants of a concrete structure called an “upgrader” remain on the furthest north site. This site is also a “priority mine”.
  • Babbitt Ranches is responsible for the mines on their property.

Site Documents

Site Contacts

Remedial Project Manager
Estrella Armijo

(armijo.estrella@epa.gov)
(415) 972-3859

Community Involvement Coordinator
Elsa Johnson

(johnson.elsa@epa.gov)
(415) 947-3552

The Section 9 Lease Mines were operated in the late 1950s and early 1960s and include Abandoned Uranium Mines (AUM) 457, 458, and 459. The mines are located about 10 miles southeast of the Cameron, AZ, and are away from population centers. AUM 457, the farthest north of the three sites, also includes a concrete structure called an “upgrader”, which was meant to increase the concentration of uranium in the ore from local mines. AUM 457 is a priority mine site based on its potential impacts on the Little Colorado River.

In 2016, EPA signed a legal agreement called an Administrative Order on Consent with Babbitt Ranches. In this document, Babbitt Ranches agreed to place warning signs and perform an assessment called a Removal Site Evaluation on AUMs 457 and 458. AUM 458 is entirely on Babbitt Ranches property, while AUM 457 is partially on Babbitt Ranches property and partially on land administered by the Bureau of Reclamation. Babbitt Ranches also agreed to investigate whether contamination from AUM 459 is now located on their property.

EPA and Babbitt Ranches will continue to work with local officials to identify community members with Homesite Leases and Grazing Permits near the site, and to keep them updated on site activities. EPA is also committed to providing information to Cameron Chapter officials and other interested individuals.

Current Field Work

Babbitt Ranches began field work on the Section 9 Lease Mines in 2017, under EPA oversight. Field work to date includes:

  • Biological and Cultural Resource Surveys
  • Placing warning signs at the sites
  • Gamma radiation scanning
  • Background study

Cleanup Progress Timeline

DANGER - KEEP OUT with radiological symbol.A warning sign placed in front of a waste pile at AUM 457.

The Section 9 Lease mines were operated in the 1950s and 1960s. Under the 2016 Administrative Order on Consent, Babbitt Ranches agreed to perform assessments at the two abandoned uranium mine sites on their property. Click on the different years below to learn about recent and upcoming activities.

2012

EPA completes a Preliminary Assessment of the Section 9 Lease abandoned uranium mines

2014

EPA completes a Site Inspection of the Section 9 Lease abandoned uranium mines

2016

EPA signs a legal agreement with Babbitt Ranches to perform assessments on mines on their property

2017

  • Babbitt Ranches completes cultural and biological clearances ahead of site work
  • Babbitt Ranches places warning signs at the sites
  • Babbitt Ranches begins gamma radiation and background studies

Site Photographs

The Section 9 Lease Mines are three abandoned uranium mines sites located near the Little Colorado River in Northern Arizona. The mines are located just outside the Navajo Nation and are about 10 miles southeast of Cameron, AZ. Under a 2016 Administrative Order on Consent, Babbitt Ranches agreed to perform a Removal Site Evaluation on the two mines on their property.

Section 9 Lease Mines

  • Desert landscape with small hills One of the waste piles remaining on site at AUM 457.
  • Desert vista with "Warning: Keep Out" sign, concrete wall in mid photo and concrete pad in foreground A warning sign placed near the upgrader structure on AUM 457.
  • DANGER - KEEP OUT with radiological symbol. A warning sign placed in front of a waste pile at AUM 457.
  • Warning sign in sandy soil in front of brush with opposite bank of river visible in the distance. Warning sign placed near the Little Colorado River.
  • Concrete walled structure in a desert setting The remnants of a concrete structure called an “upgrader”, which was meant to increase the concentration of uranium in the ore from local mines.