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News Releases

News Releases from Region 09

EPA requires BNSF Railway Company to begin work at abandoned uranium mines

05/22/2017
Contact Information: 
Margot Perez-Sullivan (perezsullivan.margot@epa.gov)
415-947-4149

SAN FRANCISCO – Today, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced an agreement with BNSF Railway Company to begin cleanup at the Haystack Mines Site, a group of three abandoned uranium mines near Prewitt, New Mexico and the Baca/Prewitt chapter, on Navajo Nation. 

The mines site operated from 1952 to 1981 and produced 400,000 tons of uranium ore.  Today, the 174-acre area is being used for livestock grazing and includes one residence with some additional homes nearby. The work is expected to begin in July and last for four months.

Under the agreement, BNSF Railway Company will conduct the following actions:

  • Through biological and cultural assessments of the property, ensure cultural resources and sensitive species are not impacted
  • Fence the property and post warning signs
  • Outreach to the local community
  • Provide temporary alternative housing to impacted residents if necessary
  • Construct access roads
  • Excavate contaminated soil

During the Cold War, 30 million tons of uranium ore were mined on or adjacent to the Navajo Nation, leaving more than 500 abandoned mines.  EPA has entered into settlement agreements valued at $1.7 billion to reduce the highest risks to the Navajo people.  Since 2008, EPA has conducted preliminary investigations at all the mines, remediated 48 contaminated structures, provided safe drinking water to 3,013 families in partnership with the Indian Health Service, and performed cleanup or stabilization work at nine mines.  In total, funds are available to begin the cleanup process at over 200 abandoned uranium mines, representing 40% of the abandoned uranium mines on the Navajo Nation. This work is a closely coordinated effort between federal agencies and the Navajo Nation to address the legacy of uranium contamination. 

For more information about EPA activities in the Southwest, please visit: www.epa.gov/region9 or www.epa.gov/region6