SHIPROCK, N.M. — From the end of World War II to the mid-1980s, about 30 million ton of uranium ore were extracted from lands belonging to the nation’s largest American Indian reservation. Today, across the Navajo Nation, sit dozens of abandoned uranium mines and the high risk to residents of contamination exposure.
Now, the Navajo Nation is urging the U.S. Congress to expand a federal law that compensates people who were exposed to radiation resulting from nuclear bomb tests stemming from the Cold War.
Currently, the law only covers people who lived downwind from nuclear test sites in Nevada, Arizona and Utah, as well as workers in the uranium mining industry in a dozen states. But the tribe says it’s time for Navajo Nation workers after 1971 to be included.
“Many members of the federal government are not aware of the effects uranium mining has had on Navajo people,” Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye said. “They don’t see the consequences of radiation exposure.”
Most claims under the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act come from the Four Corners region where New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Utah meet. Proposed amendments would expand the cutoff for uranium mining workers from 1971 to 1990.