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Navajo Nation: Cleaning Up Abandoned Uranium Mines

Trust Mines

The United States and the Navajo Nation entered into legal agreements (Phase 1 Settlement and the Phase 2 Settlement) that provide funds to investigate and cleanup 16 of the 46 “priority mines," investigate an additional 30 mines, and conduct two water studies at mines located on the Navajo Nation.
Stone wall with blocked mine entranceThe Navajo Abandoned Mine Lands Reclamation Program closed portals like the one shown here at the Charles Keith mine.

Background

EPA and Navajo Nation EPA are evaluating whether there are chemical or radiological hazards that may pose a threat to community members or the environment at the 46 mines covered under both Settlement Agreements. The Navajo Nation Abandoned Mine Lands Reclamation Program performed activities to address physical hazards at most of the mine sites in the 1990s. The Trust Settlement work is being conducted in phases and there are multiple Trustees administering the funds and performing the work under the oversight of EPA and Navajo Nation EPA. All mines included in the Trust Settlement Agreements are “Orphan Mines” (no known viable potentially responsible party).

The Phase 1 Trustee, Sadie Hoskie, is conducting investigations at the 16 priority mines covered under the first Settlement Agreement. These mines are located across all six of the AUM regions. The second Settlement Agreement contains two Trusts: the Removal Site Evaluation (RSE) Trust and the Priority Orphan Trust. The Phase 2 RSE Trustee, Derrith Watchman-Moore, will conduct investigations at 30 mines, 13 of these mines are located in the Cameron area and the remaining mines will be identified in the future. The Phase 2 RSE Trustee will also conduct a water study at the Claim 28 mine in Blue Gap and will conduct another water study at a location that will be identified in the future. The Phase 2 Priority Orphan Trustee, not yet identified, will conduct the cleanup at the 16 priority mines being assessed under the Phase 1 Settlement.

  • The Phase 1 Trust
    The Phase 1 Trustee began investigations of the 16 priority mines identified in the Phase 1 Settlement Agreement between the U.S. and the Navajo Nation in 2015, under EPA and Navajo Nation EPA oversight. The investigations will show the extent of the area with potential mine waste contamination. Field work completed to date includes:
    • Completed biological and cultural resource surveys
    • Conducted radiation surveys, soil, and water samples
    • Completed investigation field work at all 16 mines
  • The Phase 2 Removal Site Evaluation (RSE) Trust

    The Phase 2 RSE Trustee, Ms. Watchman-Moore, will begin work in 2018, in the Western AUM region, conducting investigations at 13 abandoned uranium mines. The Trustee will also begin a water study at the Claim 28 mine in the Central AUM region. Ms. Watchman-Moore will conduct 17 additional mine investigations and one additional water study.

  • The Phase 2 Priority Orphan Mine Trust

    The Phase 2 Priority Orphan Mine Trustee is planned to be selected later in 2018. The Trustee, when selected, will begin the cleanup process, as needed, at the 16 priority mines assessed under the Phase 1 Trust. These AUMs are located across all six of the AUM regions.

Monthly Event

Offered by the U.S. Small Business Administration on the first Wednesday of each month.

Community Involvement

Community members have an opportunity to become involved in the cleanup activities and help shape cleanup decisions. The Phase 1 and Phase 2 Trustee and their team of experts meet regularly, in coordination with EPA and NNEPA, with chapter officials, residents and community members regarding the mines located in all the abandoned uranium mine region.

Cleanup Progress Timeline

The 46 mines and two water studies that are included in the Trust Agreements are located across all six AUM Regions. The Navajo Nation Abandoned Mine Lands Reclamation Program performed activities to address physical hazards at most of the mine sites in the 1990s.

Closed mine entrance
  • The Navajo Nation Abandoned Mine Lands Reclamation Program performs reclamation activities to address physical hazards at most of the mine sites.
View towards Charles Keith Mine
  • From 2008-2012, EPA conducts initial screening of radiation levels on all mines, and prioritizes 46 mines for detailed investigations, including the 16 mines assessed by the Phase 1 Trustee.
Sadie Hoskie
  • The Trust as part of the Phase 1 Settlement is established, including funding for investigations at 16 priority mines.
  • Phase 1 Trustee, Sadie Hoskie, meets with Chapter officials and community members, and begins to conduct investigations at the 16 mines.
Desert landscape
  • The Phase 2 Settlement is established and provides funds for any necessary cleanup at 16 of the priority mines, plus assessments at 30 additional mines, and two water studies at mines on Navajo Nation.
Worker leaving mine entrance to Mitten 3
  • Phase 1 Trustee, Sadie Hoskie, continues to conduct investigations of mines with the Navajo Nation EPA and EPA oversight.
  • Phase 2 RSE Trustee, Derrith Watchman-Moore, is named. Ms. Watchman-Moore will conduct assessments at 30 additional mines and conduct two water studies with Navajo Nation EPA and EPA oversight.
Sadie Hoskie
  • Phase 1 Trustee Sadie Hoskie completes investigations at all 16 mines in the Phase 1 Settlement.
  • Phase 2 RSE Trustee Derrith Watchman-Moore begins investigations at 13 mines located in the Western Agency.