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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.

Site Facts

  • A total of 46 mines will be assessed, and 16 will be cleaned up, as needed, under the first and second Settlement Agreements
  • The 16 mines that will be cleaned up, as needed, are priority mines
  • Two water studies will be conducted: one at Claim 28 mine in the Central AUM Region and another at a location to be determined
  • The second water study may be at more than one mine

Site Documents

Site Contacts

Phase 2 Settlement Mines

For more information about the Phase 2 Removal Site Evaluation (RSE) Trust work, visit the Phase 2 RSE Trust websiteExit

EPA Contacts

EPA Remedial Project Manager for Phase 1 Trust
Linda Reeves (reeves.linda@epa.gov)
(415) 972-3445

EPA Remedial Project Manager for Phase 2 RSE Trust
Freyja Knapp (knapp.freyja@epa.gov)
415-972-3025

EPA Community Involvement Coordinator
Elsa Johnson (johnson.elsa@epa.gov)
(415) 947-3552

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 potentially responsible party).

The Phase 1 Trustee, Sadie Hoskie, conducted 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 provides the funding to 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. It also provides the funding for a water study at the Claim 28 mine in Tachee-Blue Gap and another water study at a location that will be identified in the future. Lastly, the second Settlement Agreement provides the funding for the cleanup, as needed, of the 16 priority mines assessed under the Phase 1 Settlement. The Phase 2 RSE Trustee is Derrith Watchman-Moore.

The Phase 1 Trust

The Phase 1 Trustee investigated 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 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
  • Complete investigation reports (Removal Site Evaluations)

The Phase 2 Removal Site Evaluation (RSE) Trust

The Phase 2 RSE Trustee, Ms. Watchman-Moore, began work in 2018 in the Western AUM region, conducting investigations at 13 abandoned uranium mines, and in Tachee-Blue Gap, conducting a water study at the Claim 28 mine in the Central AUM region. Ms. Watchman-Moore will conduct 17 additional mine investigations, one additional water study, and begin the cleanup process, as needed at the 16 priority mines assessed under the Phase 1 Trust.

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.

1990's

  • The Navajo Nation Abandoned Mine Lands Reclamation Program performs reclamation activities to address physical hazards at most of the mine sites.

2008

  • 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.

2015

  • 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.

2016

  • 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.

2017

  • 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.

2018

  • 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.
Sadie Hoskie standing next to an information kioskThe Phase I Trust Settlement Trustee, Sadie Hoskie, participates in the Monument Valley open house in April 2016.
 
 
 
Sadie HoskieSadie Hoskie

Site Photographs

Photographs related to the abandoned uranium mine cleanup work near Trust Mines.

Trust Mines

  • Mining Debris October 2016: The Navajo Abandoned Mine Lands Reclamation Program closed this portal into NA-0904.
  • Researcher is walking though desert region with a backpack mounted GPS locator and a handheld device to scan for gamma radiation September 2016: The Phase 1 Trustee's contractor is conducting radiation scans at 16 of the priority mines.
  • Worker leaving mine entrance to Mitten 3 October 2016: The Phase 1 Trustee's contractor is conducting an investigation at Mitten No. 3 in Oljato Chapter.
  • View towards Charles Keith Mine October 2016: The Phase 1 Trustee is conducting an investigation at Charles Keith in Oljato Chapter.
  • Closed mine entrance October 2016: The Navajo Abandoned Mine Lands Reclamation Program closed portals like the one shown here at the Charles Keith mine.
  • Desert landscape October 2016: The Phase 1 Trustee is conducting an investigation at Harvey Blackwater No. 3 mine in Dennehotso Chapter.
  • Desert ridgeline October 2016: The Phase 1 Trustee is conducting an investigation of the Eunice Becenti mine.
  • EPA Contractor in yellow vest with handheld device and backpack October 2016: Uranium was mined at Eunice Becenti from 1953-1959.
  • EPA contractor with backpack standing in a flat desert area October 2016: The Phase 1 Trustee is conducting radiation scans at 16 of the priority mines.
  • Desert ridgeline October 2016: The Phase 1 Trustee is conducting radiation scans at 16 of the priority mines.
  • sandstone with sagebrush October 2016: The Hoskie Tso No. 1 mine contains this natural sandstone outcrop with elevated radiation.
  • standing water in a pond with water tank in background October 2016: The Trustee will sample this water source near Hoskie Tso No. 1.
  • Water Sampling October 2016: The Trustee’s contractors are sampling water sources near the mines.
  • Barton No. 3 October 2016: The Phase 1 Trustee is conducting an investigation at Barton No. 3 mine (pictured above) in Red Mesa Chapter.
  • Alongo Mines Site October 2016: The Phase 1 Trustee is conducting an investigation at the Alongo mine in Red Valley Chapter.
  • Sadie Hoskie April 2016: The Phase 1 Trust Settlement Trustee, Sadie Hoskie, participates in the Monument Valley open house in April 2016.
  • Children looking at information poster with Carl Holiday April 2016: Carl Holiday, Community Liaison for the Phase 1 Trustee, meets with residents at the Monument Valley Uranium Open House.
  • Desert landscape with power lines and ridge in background October 2016: Uranium was mined at Boyd Tisi No. 2 from 1957-1958. Since 2015, the Phase 1 Trustee is conducting an investigation of the mine.
  • Desert landscape with barbed wire fencing visible Claim 28 is an abandoned uranium mine in the Tachee/Blue Gap Chapter where the Phase 1 Trustee conducted an investigation. Additionally, the Phase 2 Settlement provides funds to conduct a water study and cleanup the mine site.