Environment | Opinion

Opinion: Navajo Nation pressured to reconsider uranium ban





Jonathan Thompson discusses uranium mining on the Navajo Nation:
When I read that mining companies are pressuring the Navajo Nation to let them mine uranium on Diné land I thought: What gall. After all, the Navajos banned uranium mining on the reservation back in 2005, and for good reason. From World War II until the mid-1980s, the federally-subsidized uranium industry pulled some 4 million tons of uranium from within the nation’s boundaries. In doing so, they laid waste to a good portion of the Navajo Nation, along with many of the people who worked in or lived near the mines, mills and tailings piles.

The industry’s legacy is etched on the landscape: hundreds of abandoned mines, contaminated water sources, homes that have been built with contaminated soil. The health impacts are harder to see, but they include lung, bone and breast cancer and kidney failure. How many generations will be impacted is still unknown. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on cleaning up mine sites, moving and capping tailings, replacing contaminated homes and piping clean water to remote places. And the cleanup, and spending, continues. Just this week, the Navajo Nation accepted a $3 million grant from the EPA to replace more contaminated homes.

So it seems insane -- maybe even a little sick -- for companies to come begging to do it all over again. There’s no way the Navajos would lift their ban. Is there?

Get the Story:
Jonathan Thompson / The GOAT Blog Uranium ban rethink? (High Country News 3/15)