‘We didn’t know we were poisoning ourselves’: the deadly legacy of the US uranium boom – by Tracy Tullis (The Guardian – November 20, 2023)


The Diné helped dig the raw materials to build the US’s nuclear arsenal, but were never told of the danger

Allen Tsosie was just 14 when he went to work in the uranium mines in the Lukachukai mountains near Cove, Arizona. Tsosie was one of thousands of Navajos who took jobs in the mines, starting in the 1940s. They worked without masks or ventilation to disperse the lethal radon gas, and they were never told the rocks they were handling – leetso in the Diné language, or yellow dirt – were deadly.

In Cove, “you see a lot of women and children,” said Kathleen Tsosie, Allen’s daughter, because hundreds of men who worked in the mines have died.

Between 1944 and 1986, miners excavated nearly 30m tons of uranium ore – material used to develop nuclear weapons – from the Diné homelands, which spread across north-west New Mexico and north-east Arizona, and a sliver of southern Utah. These workers developed respiratory illnesses like lung cancer, pulmonary fibrosis and silicosis at alarming rates.

Allen, who worked in the mines for three decades, was among the victims: he died of lung cancer in 1985, at age 47.Now, nearly 40 years after the last mine in Navajo country closed, former miners and other members of the Diné community who were exposed to uranium are fighting to get the radioactive waste cleaned up and to get fair compensation for those who have been sickened.

For the rest of this article: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/nov/20/navajo-dine-uraminum-mining-poison