Political Issues on the Navajo Nation from Uranium Mining

This page was written by Erin Klauk as part of the DLESE Community Services Project: Integrating Research in Education.

Floyd Frank of Oakspring, Arizona. Details

Once the dangers of uranium mining gradually became clear, a few Navajo began to ask for accountability from the government. Throughout the 1970's, a few people struggled both to put controls on operations in the mines and to help Navajo victims of radiation exposure find some compensation. In December 1978, one hundred Navajo joined with Friends of the Earth to file suit against six federal agencies, demanding a regional study of the impacts of uranium mining. The case was eventually rendered moot since the uranium activity at that time stopped due to a decline in uranium prices ([Ali, 2003] ).

Harry Tome, a Dineh from Red Rock chapter, worked throughout the decade to bring relief to Navajo miners. Toward the end of the eighties, former U.S. Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall intervened, and the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act was signed to law in 1990. The remediation programs for the mines are still far from over ([Ali, 2003] ).

An important new government report, Health and Environmental Impacts of Uranium Contamination in the Navajo Nation Five-Year Plan (PDF 1.31 MB) was released by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform March 3, 2008.

President Clinton shaking hands with Navajo woman in Shiprock, April 2000. Details

To further investigate policy issues on the Navajo Nation from uranium mining, follow the links below.

Policy Resources about Uranium Mining on the Navajo Nation

Online resources containing information about policies from uranium mining on the Navajo Nation:

  • Compensation of Navajo Uranium Miners. This site addresses policy issues of the compensation of Navajo uranium miners. The site provides an annotated index of current issues, legislation, papers and presentations, books, and links that lead to more information on uranium miners. Imbedded links throughout the text lead to related information. (more info)
  • Facts and History About: Hydro Resources Incorporated Crownpoint Uranium Solution Mining Project. This site is a fact sheet created by the Southwest Research and Information Center about the Crownpoint Uranium Solution Mining Project. Topics covered include information about the project, potential impacts of mines, current status of the project, the threat of new uranium mining, and the Navajo opposition to new uranium mining. (more info)
  • Final Report of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act Committee. This is the final report of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) Committee published in July 1996. This report makes recommendations about policy issues relating to compensation for uranium workers with lung cancer and nonmalignant respiratory diseases. This report also includes an appendix that addresses the establishment of data-based criteria for radon-associated lung cancer. (more info)
  • Information for Atomic Veterans, Downwinders and Uranium Miners. This website contains the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act amendments of 1999. (more info)
  • Radiation Exposure Compensation Program. This is the Justice Department's Radiation Exposure Compensation Program homepage. This site features information about the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, including claimant categories, claim forms, and the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act. This site also provides a table illustrating a summary of all claims received and compensation paid to date. (more info)
  • The Navajo Uranium Mining Experience, 2003-1952. This bibliography, compiled by the Southwest Research and Information Center, contains resources related to Navajo uranium issues and communities affected by uranium mining impacts since the mid-1970s. Entries were selected for their relevancy to Navajo community concerns, Navajo Nation policies, and health and environmental effects of uranium development on Navajo lands. Topics for resources include articles, books, policy statements, reports, presentations, testimony, and published medical, scientific and sociological literature. (more info)
  • Uranium and Radiation Education Outreach. This is an educational and public program designed to increase awareness of uranium health effects and environmental issues for students and community members that are impacted by uranium mining on the Navajo Nation. The site contains lesson plans, teaching resources and information about problem-based learning. There is also a paper on bridging indigenous and traditional scientific approaches as well as many useful links to additional resources. (more info)

Suggested Future Reading on Policy Issues

Resources containing information on policy issues:

  • Uranium Mine Waste on the Navajo Reservation. 103rd Congress, 1994 This is a transcript of a hearing about the cleanup of abandoned uranium mines and mine waste on the Navajo reservation. (citation and description)

For ideas on how to use these webpages in a classroom, a Study Guide is provided.