Environmental Impacts on the Navajo Nation from Uranium Mining
Despite efforts made in cleaning up uranium sites, significant problems stemming from the legacy of uranium development still exist today on the Navajo Nation. Hundreds of abandoned mines have not been cleaned up and present environmental and health risks in many Navajo communities. In addition to this, Navajo communities now have to face proposed new uranium solution mining that threatens the only source of drinking water for 10,000 to 15,000 people living in the Eastern Navajo Agency in northwestern New Mexico. The Southwest Research and Information Center (SRIC) aims to provide the public with information on resource exploitation on the people and their cultures, lands, water, and air of the Southwest (SRIC).
In terms of both short and long term environmental impact, uranium mining is by far the most environmentally problematic of any mining activity because radioactivity of the ore presents an intangible that cannot be chemically mitigated. Even after the mining activities ceased on the Navajo Nation, the legacy of environmental harm continued from events such as what happened in 1979 at Church Rock. The Church Rock disaster is the largest accidental release of radioactive material in U.S. history. A tailing dam burst, sending eleven hundred tons of radioactive mill wastes and ninety million gallons of contaminated liquid pouring toward Arizona into the Rio Puerco River. The Navajo still cannot use this water ([Ali, 2003] ).
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