Navajo Nation: Cleaning Up Abandoned Uranium Mines

Western Abandoned Uranium Mine Region

There are more than 100 abandoned uranium mines (AUMs) in the Western AUM Region. These mines are generally located along the Little Colorado River and Highway 89, and are in the Cameron, Coalmine Canyon, Bodaway/Gap, and Leupp Chapters.

Desert Landscape in Cameron abandoned uranium mines area

Site Description and History

Mines in the Western AUM Region were operated in the 1950’s and 1960’s by a number of different companies before being abandoned. While the Navajo Nation Abandoned Mine Lands program addressed many of the physical hazards associated with these mines, EPA and Navajo Nation EPA are working to address remaining chemical and radiological hazards that may pose a risk to community members.

  • Legal Agreements and Upcoming Mine Assessments

    EPA, in partnership with Navajo Nation EPA, is working to identify companies responsible for the mines and to oversee detailed assessments of the mines. In 2013, EPA signed a legal agreement called an Administrative Order on Consent with El Paso Natural Gas to assess 19 mine claims in western Navajo Nation. The Navajo Environmental Response Trust will also conduct an assessment on one mine claim in the area.

    These assessments will allow EPA, working with Navajo Nation EPA, to develop cleanup options for the mines. EPA will continue to involve the community during mine assessments and as we begin to consider cleanup options.

Community Involvement

In the communities of Cameron, Coalmine Canyon, Bodaway/Gap, and Leupp, residents should know and participate in what EPA is doing in their community, and have a say in it. The main purpose of engaging community members is to give them the opportunity to become involved in EPA’s activities and help shape the decisions that are made affecting their community.

  • Who is the community?

    Mines in the area are located along the Little Colorado River and Highway 89, and are located in the Cameron, Coalmine Canyon, Bodaway/Gap, and Leupp Chapters. Some of the mines are located near Homesites, especially those who live near the bridge in Cameron over the Little Colorado River. Additional mines are located along the Little Colorado River south of Cameron and along Highway 89 north of Cameron. Affected community members include those who graze livestock in these areas or have vending stalls along the highway.

  • Current community involvement activities

    EPA works with Chapter Officials as well as community members for all outreach activities and information sessions which are conducted with cultural sensitivity.  EPA continues to:

    • Report at Chapter meetings and District 3 Grazing meetings
    • Report at Community Land Use Planning Committee meetings
    • Present at EPA-led meetings in the community
    • Attend special events such as the Western Nation Fair and Cameron Community Celebration
    • Present at schools such as Dzil Libei Elementary School
    • Produce factsheets relevant to the Superfund cleanup process and upcoming work in the region
    • Inform residents door-to-door when work will be taking place near their Homesite
    • Meet with Chapter officials and Navajo Nation Council Delegates
  • Past community involvement activities

    EPA completed the following activities in the community:

    • Reported at numerous Cameron, Coalmine Canyon, and Bodaway/Gap Chapter meetings
    • Reported at numerous District 3 Grazing meetings
    • Reported at Cameron, Coalmine Canyon, and Bodaway/Gap Community Land Use Planning meetings
    • Conducted Community Involvement Plan interviews in Cameron, Coalmine Canyon, and Bodaway/Gap
    • Met with Chapter officials and Council Delegates
    • Presented on warning signs and upcoming field work at the Cameron Senior Center and the Cameron community building
    • Participated in Bennett Freeze tours with the Navajo Nation Office of the President and Vice President, Navajo Nation, Council Members, Arizona State Legislature Members, and staffers of US Congressional Representatives
    • Set up information booths at the Western Nation Fair in Tuba City, the Cameron Community Celebration, and the Community Uranium Exposure-Journey to Healing Mobile Clinic in Cameron
    • Presented at Dzil Libei Elementary School in 2014, 2015, and 2016
  • Partnerships

    EPA continues to work and strengthen relationship with a number of organizations focused on uranium and radiation, including:

    • Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency
    • Navajo Nation Abandoned Mine Lands Program
    • Indian Health Service Community Uranium Exposure-Journey to Healing
    • Indian Health Service Radiation Exposure Screening and Education Program
    • Office of Navajo Uranium Workers
    • Navajo Birth Cohort Study
    • Navajo Nation Department of Health Community Health Representatives
    • Bureau of Indian Affairs
    • Indian Health Service
    • Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
    • Nuclear Regulatory Commission
    • Department of Energy
    • University of New Mexico
    • Northern Arizona University
    • Forgotten People Community Development Corporation
    • Coconino County Board of Supervisors
    • Others as suggested by community members and local officials
Map showing Western AUM Region Abandoned Uranium MinesWestern Region AUM Map | Enlarge | PDF Version