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URANIUM MINING in the SOUTH WEST: A LEGACY THAT POISONS THE LAND … AND ” IT WILL NEVER GO AWAY’!


“The U.S. Department Of Energy created a demand for uranium–the Navajo lands and scarce waters as well as the lives and health of the Navajo people became the biggest sacrifice ever visited on a people.”

Ed Singer, Cameron Chapter President, Western Navajo Nation

( WHITE DUST PART ONE )

RARE METALS Arizona a uranium mill company town, these foundations were finally bulldozed and removed, so was the topsoil, inches of it scrapped up and trucked away. From June 1956 to November 1966, the Tuba City Rare Metals Mill processed 796,489 tons of uranium ore. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, when the mill closed three connected mill tailing piles containing some 800,000 tons of material and three evaporation ponds remained. The mill became a Superfund site, all that is left of the Rare Metals Mill today is a fenced remediation site. For decades Navajo lived in these homes after the mill closed or the torn down buildings were reused elsewhere.Navajo Sheep Grazing in the exposed Uranium tailing long abandon by Rare Metals Corporation. Remedial Cap below is finally placed at Rare Metals Tailing in the 1990’s, forty years later.

Much of the debate over Uranium is disputed–the argument often pits the Navajo Tribe against mine owners who argue the Tribes religious concerns for the land vs the jobs, salaries that mining brings to a vast wasteland for any economic opportunity. The Navajo people need to be able to feed and house their families has been long exploited by corporations seeking to do business on the reservation. Uranium ore can be found anywhere. It is 40 times more common than silver and 500 times more common than gold but hard to find in concentrations rich enough to take it from the soil.


BBC video of workers underground in a Uranium mine …

Mines sprung up all over the Navajo Reservations during the 1950-60-70’s, some opened, closed, some were forgotten and as the ebb and flow of the mining business, mining operations failed, closed and they walked away from their open sore on the land. “Contaminated Buildings Abandoned on the Reservation are repurposed and utilized are Health Risks”
Since 2006 prices for Uranium ore has been climbing and now the mines are back and they want to take more Uranium from the land and the South West Tribes oppose these advances to pick up where the mines left off. The Legacy of Uranium in Northern Arizona is three Superfund Clean Ups, two in Tuba City, the Rare Metals Mill and the AEC Ore Buying Station (stockpiled uranium ore from other sites for processing) and the Monument Valley Mill site, the New Mexico Tumor Registry is providing information on clusters of cancers, many premature deaths of Uranium Miners many with lung cancers and still decades of study and little action. Beginning in the 1940s and driven by the government’s pursuit of atomic weaponry, more than 1,000 uranium mines were opened throughout the Navajo Nation. Navajo miners and millers were not told of the dangers of working with the uranium or of the simple measures that might have minimized their exposure to radiation. That fact is repeated over and over again by the miners, one who spoke with an air tube, died a few months after his video testimony.
RARE METALS CORPORATION WALKED AWAY FROM THIS MILL AND THESE HOMES contaminated by decades of blowing white dust from the mill and the nearby Atomic Energy Commission tailing, comprised of ore dug elsewhere and trucked in for milling.

Navajo graduate students are studying links between incidents of birth defects in families and the proximity of those families to uranium mine tailing, New Mexico State Tumor Registry data from the late 1970s shows a 17-fold increase in childhood reproductive cancers compared to the U.S. as a whole. These extremely rare cancers are related to hormone systems. Another study looking at registry data from 1970-1982 showed a 2.5-fold increase in these cancers among all Native Americans in New Mexico, many Indians in northern New Mexico are Navajo.

In the mid-1990’s remediation began and the uranium tailing which sat blowing in the wind beside Navajo Rt. 160 for decades was capped and water studies begun. Plumes have been detected and they have stopped just short Moenkopi, two Hopi villages just east of the Navajo community of Tuba City. MOENKOPI, is two villages, Upper Moenkopi and Lower Today residents go to four water tapes for their drinking water. Their wells may any day soon become compromised by the decades of rain leaching over exposed uranium tailing at Rare Metals, Arizona, once a mill for all the mines in the area, today lies capped but it’s legacy is already on the move. The results from shallow groundwater monitoring have identified elevated levels of contaminants near the site, among them: uranium, arsenic, chloride, lead, chromium, strontium, vanadium, and gross alpha and beta activity.

Radioactive Uranium leaks have been tracked getting closer to groundwater that provides drinking water for the two Hopi villages. Studies conducted by HOPI consultants and the Navajo Nation show uranium contamination within 100 feet of water supply wells that provide all the drinking water to the village of Lower Moenkopi. In addition, contamination is within 2,000 feet of the water supply spring that provides all the drinking water to the village of Upper Moenkopi.

Uranium has been detected in Grand Canyon streams at concentrations up to eight times greater than the drinking water standard of 30 micrograms per liter, so the National Park Service no longer recommends that folks bathe or swim in the Colorado River or off shoots of Kanab Creek and concern grow for the fish and for down stream people who drink from the flow…like all the South West: Salt Lake City, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Los Angles, Tucson and Mexico.
<a href=”http://www.grandcanyontrust.org/grand-canyon/uranium_issues.php&#8221; title=”RADIATION IN THE GRAND CANYON”>“There should be some places that you just do not mine. Uranium is a special concern because it is both a toxic heavy metal and a source of radiation. I worry about uranium escaping into the local water, and about its effect on fish in the Colorado River at the bottom of the gorge, and on the bald eagles, California condors and bighorn sheep that depend on the Canyon’s seeps and springs. More than a third of the Canyon’s species would be affected if water quality suffered.”
— Steve Martin, former Grand Canyon National Park Superintendent
refhttp://www.grandcanyontrust.org/grand-canyon/uranium_issues.php


Navajo grassroots documentary multi-media studies clutter utube today, gathering more videos all the time, there is a three part study that shows the transition from uranium ore, to yellow cake, to bombs in Iraq and how today three in 10 US Soldiers have unacceptable levels of radiation from uranium enriched bombs used in Iraq. One part of the studies say 100,000 Iraqis will die of cancers. The Grand Canyon Trust says “in 1979, an earthen dam breached, releasing 1,100 tons of radioactive mill wastes and 90 million gallons of contaminated water into a tributary of the Little Colorado River. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission acknowledges that many additional toxic tailing have been washed into our region’s waterways. Collectively, these events correlate with documented risks and harm to people’s health.”

“The first wave of uranium development resulted in dozens of claims and mines to be located in and around the Grand Canyon. In 1984, a flash flood washed tons of high-grade uranium ore from Hack Canyon Mine into Kanab Creek, which drains into Grand Canyon. Located within the Park’s south rim, the Orphan Mine continues to contaminate creeks, prompting the National Park Service to warn backpackers along the Tonto Trail not to use water from the two drainage.” The reason, experts and advocates say, lies high above where the Orphan Mine produced 4.3 million pounds of some of the purest uranium ever found in the U.S. before closing in 1969. The U.S. EPA has declared the mine a Superfund site, the NPS is said to be studying the level of contamination.

Navajos do have a younger population and relatively more young Navajo women get breast cancer than other groups. So the anecdotal evidence for doctors working on the reservation is often disturbing. “When we see women in their 30s with breast cancer, it really knocks everyone for a loop,” says physician Tom Drouhard, who has practiced in Tuba City, Arizona 30 years. “Our ladies come in with later stages and higher death rates. It’s hard to say what the trends are. All of these tumors are multifactorial, and uranium could be another thing thrown at it. We are very paranoid about the situation with uranium. We had uncovered tailing five miles from Tuba City for 20 years. It’s a reasonable concern. Charles Wiggins says, director of the NM Tumor Registry. He plans to re-examine childhood cancer statistics using data gathered since 1982.

“The DOE created a demand for uranium to feed the U.S. Cold War strategy,” said Ed Singer, president of the Cameron Chapter, one of the Navajo Nation’s Western Agency chapters.

“The Navajo people are to this very day paying for that with their health and lives. Large areas of Navajo land and scarce waters upon it as well as the lives and health of the Navajo people became the biggest sacrifice ever visited on a people.”

In the summer of 2014 North Arizona Researchers have developed a hypothesis that if uranium is photoactivated by UV radiation it could be more harmful to skin than either exposure alone,” said Diane Stearns, professor of biochemistry who with co-author Janice Wilson, developed a study that that once uranium was present on the skin, exposure to UV radiation or sunlight could be chemically toxic and lead to cancerous lesions. The team members now has recommended that future risk assessments regarding cancer caused by uranium exposure include the possibility of photoactivation in skin.

“They’ve tried to clean up the water table for years, they can’t do it. It can’t be done!”

Navajo President Joe Shirley Jr. explains why the NAVAJO people and other leaders of the HOPI and HAVASUPAI Tribes say NO to Uranium mining.”NO, WE JUST DON’T WANT IT ANY WHERE ON NAVAJO LAND!” SHIRLEY said.

RARE METALS AZ – Images by P.K. Weis

ARIZONA REPUBLIC URANIUM STUDY ….CLICK HERE

 

 

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