Navajo Nation faces possible new threats after decades of uranium mining – by Kate Holland and Tenzin Shakya (ABC News – December 7, 2023)

A Canadian company is working to move forward with uranium extraction.

Just miles from the site of the 1979 Church Rock Mill spill, the largest nuclear disaster in American history, uranium extraction operations could resume near the Navajo Nation. Now, Navajo leaders say the health and prosperity of their community could be in even further jeopardy.

A Canadian company is working to move forward with uranium extraction, an industry that has a lengthy history around the Navajo Nation. “The pursuit of happiness for us is to be able to live in our communities without fear from the impact of radiation and uranium,” said Teracita Keyanna, who grew up near an abandoned uranium mine in New Mexico. “It’s been really scary, just being a mom in this area.”

‘You’d probably be angry too, right?’

More than 500 mines across the Navajo Nation once supplied uranium that helped power the U.S. Department of Defense’s nuclear arms development, including the Manhattan Project during World War II, but not a single one has been completely cleaned up in the decades since, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Uranium mining continued in and around the Navajo Nation after the war. In 1979, the Church Rock Mill spill occurred when a United Nuclear Corporation dam failed to hold back 94 million gallons of radioactive waste from entering the nearby Puerco River.

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