To: House Committee on Natural Resources regarding Bill H.R. 2262
        Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
Submitted by: Nancy Freeman
Executive Director
Groundwater Awareness League, Inc.
P. O. Box 934
Green Valley, AZ 85622

Date: September 26, 2007 and October 1, 2007

Subject: Urgency of mining law reform
Uranium mining impacts, especially on Native American lands, compels the immediate need for reform


One of the most compelling reasons to enact significant mining law reform NOW is the rush to mine uranium on public land, including Native American land and their historical sacred sites. Nuclear power is now being touted as a relatively cheap, reliable and emissions-free solution to the world's insatiable demand for energy. Even some leading environmentalists have endorsed nuclear power as an antidote to global warming. More than 50 nuclear plants are planned or under construction in a dozen countries, according to the experts. The truth is nuclear power uses fossil fuel energy at every step: mining, milling, enriching, and conversion to solid—then carting the waste to a disposal facility. Further the problems with the radioactive waste still have not been solved.

The price of uranium is going up so the speculators who hope to make a quick fortune on its rise are coming out of the millworks—especially those from across our northern border. Our Canadian neighbors are in a frenzy to stake claims on free public land, accompanied by its free water, offered by their unsuspecting and uninformed taxpayers south of their border. The situation is so blatant on Native American lands in U. S. that on April 10, 2007, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) told Canada that it must rein in Canadian corporations operating on Native American land in the United States.
See Attachment One: UN Body Holds Canada Responsible for Corporations’ Actions Abroad

According to the meticulous records of the Environmental Working Group, Our research shows that in 12 Western states, the total number of active mining claims has increased from 207,540 in January 2003 to 376,493 in July 2007, a rise of more than 80 percent. Over an eight-month period, from last September to this May, the BLM recorded more than 50,000 new mining claims. Current claims cover an estimated 9.3 million acres. Many of the new claims are for uranium. The BLM reports that the estimated number of uranium claims staked in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming combined increased from less than 4,300 in fiscal year 2004 to more than 32,000 in fiscal year 2006.

Source of Information:
House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources
Legislative Hearing on H.R. 2262
Thursday, July 26, 2007, at 10:00 am
Testimony of Mr. Dusty Horwitt
Public Lands Program Analyst
Environmental Working Group
1436 U St. N.W., Suite 100
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 667-6982

I. What are the problems?

I-1. Unreclaimed mine sites: Currently, there are uranium mining sites on Native American lands that have not been properly cleaned up and reclaimed from the uranium boom of the 1950’s to 1985.

I-2. Health concerns: Environmental Protection Agency has released extensive testing on the carcinogenic nature of radioactive materials.

I-3. Technologically enhanced radioactive material: The pervasive nature of uranium mining entering the air, water and soil of the environment as “technologically enhanced” radioactive material must be taken into consideration, particularly for health concerns.

I-4. Disposal of Toxic Waste: Disposal regulations did not prevent the radioactive contamination of water and soil in Concord, MA or in Paducah, KY. Can we expect the people of Nevada and Utah to continue to storing the chemical and radioactive waste of the rest of the states?

I-5. Cultural impacts: There are irreversible cultural impacts from living in a toxic zone. First, the relationship to the land and the wild food source are destroyed. Further, the reservation lands are flooded with hundreds of people with no knowledge of or respect for Native American culture.

II. What are some solutions?

II-1. Permitting limitations: Corporations and their subsidiaries that have not completed clean-up and reclamation mandated by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) of any State should not be allowed to file for mining claims and/or mining permits or permitted for new operations. A thorough list should be compiled by EPA and State DEQ’s.

II-2. Health assessments: Priority should be given to health concerns of communities who live in areas with uranium.

II-3. Waste disposal assessments: Overall consideration of the ramifications of radioactive waste disposal on human and animal survival, including the necessities of clean water to drink, pure air to breath and uncontaminated soil to grow food crops, should be given priority consideration.

II-4. Sovereign Authority: Native Americans should be given total rights and authority over minerals in their lands.

III. Conclusions

Uranium is extremely toxic. The fact is that land, water and people are still suffering the effects of mining of uranium from the boom of the 1950’s through the 1980’s. When it comes to uranium mining, public land has a unique connotation: Most of the uranium is on wasteland, and those wastelands were the land forced on Native Americans, which are managed by the Department of Interior. This unique situation must be given special consideration in mining law reform to guard against a repeat of the past devastation on Native American lands.

Further, companies who have not complied with reclamation mandates on public and Native American lands should not be allowed to file permits for new operations on public or Native American lands.

A common misconception is the view that electricity generation is the whole energy supply. Electricity comprised about 16% of the total world energy consumption in 2005. Less than 16% of the world electricity is generated by nuclear power stations, so the total share of nuclear power is about 2.5% of the world energy generation, slightly less than that of hydropower. Even if the world electricity generation would be all nuclear, it would provide only 16% of the world energy demand.

Ten Reasons Why We Don't Need
To Build More Nuclear Power Plants

  • Nuclear reactors are pre-deployed weapons of mass destruction and pose an unacceptable risk. We need to eliminate, not proliferate them. An attack could render a city like Manhattan a sacrifice zone and kill hundreds of thousands within weeks.
  • There is a misconception that nuclear power produces no carbon dioxide (CO2), when in reality the twenty steps of the fuel and plant cycle require immense amounts of fossil fuel support. However, the misconception is that we would need 300 in the U.S. and 1,500 worldwide just to make a dent in greenhouse gas (ghg) emissions. One reactor takes about ten years to build. So, even if nukes were a good global warming solution, the time to construct a significant number of reactors would put off the solution for many years.
  • Devoting scarce resources to shore up nuclear takes away from the real climate change solutions - conservation, energy efficiency and renewables like wind and solar.
  • Building enough reactors to offset climate change is cost prohibitive. Reactors cost $4 billion or more each a decade ago and the price hasn't gone down.
  • Nuclear reactor proliferation means more waste with no place to put it. A new Yucca Mountain-style dump every four years would be needed if 1,500 new reactors were built.
  • Nuclear power is not emissions-free. From uranium mining, milling and enrichment to construction and waste storage, nuclear uses fossil fuels. Studies show that there will be a net energy loss - that is more fossil fuel support than electrical output, once our limited amount of high grade ore is depleted. Just like oil, uranium supplies are dwindling.
  • Even nuclear industry executives aren't convinced. One described nuclear expansion as "comatose" and an option that would give his chief financial officer and Standard and Poors "a heart attack."
  • More reactors send the wrong message abroad. The peaceful atom is a myth already exposed by the weapons programs of Indian, Pakistan, Israel, North Korea and Iran.
  • Reactors at the beginning and the end of their lifespan are at their most dangerous, prone to breakdown and accident. Most of the 103 operating now are nearing the end of their cycles. Adding new ones doubles the risk of accident.
  • Electricity is not the biggest problem. It's fossil fuel-powered vehicles. Adding nuclear won't address this or reduce these major ghg emitters. Electricity consists of only 1/6 of our total energy consumption. 83% of our energy consumption is in other areas like auto use, industrial manufacturing, mining, etc.

Information source and contact:
Arizona Nuclear Energy Watch (ANEW)
Steve Brittle
6205 South 12th Street
Phoenix, AZ 85042

A complete report on the misconceptions of nuclear power. Nuclear Information and Resource Service: “Confronting a False Myth of Nuclear Power: Nuclear Power Expansion is Not a Remedy for Climate Change.”
See Attachment Two: Confronting a false myth of nuclear power

I. What are the Problems?

On September 9-11, 2003 Environmental Protection Agency sponsored a two-day workshop on Mining Impacted Native American Lands in Reno, Nevada. The workshop goals were to educate individuals involved with mining issues affecting reservation and other Native American lands in the U.S., to identify current approaches to these issues, and to provide a comprehensive annotation of those issues, which include mining and mine waste impacts, support mechanisms, cleanup processes, and other key areas of mining and reclamation.

The Workshop Committee members were U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; Office of Research and Development, National Risk Management Research Laboratory, Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response and Regional Offices; Montana Tech & MSE-Technology Applications, Inc. ; University of Nevada, Reno;

Great Basin Mine Watch; Laguna Acoma Coalition for a Safe Environment (LACSE); Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe; Gros Ventre and Assiniboine Tribes, Fort Belknap Indian Community; Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe; National Tribal Environmental Council; Mineral Policy Center; Natives Impacted by Mining (NIBM) .

Information source and contact:
Norma Lewis
26 West Martin L. King Dr.
Cincinnati, OH 45268
(513) 569 – 7665

Following is an except from the presentation of Manuel Pino, Chairman for The Laguna Acoma Coalition for a Safe Environment at The Sixth Session Of The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, May 2007 under Agenda Item 3, Under the Special Theme: Lands, Resources and Territories, under the mandated issue of Environment, with the following signatories: The Seventh Generation Fund for Indian Development, Eastern Navajo Dine Against Uranium Mining (ENDAUM) Dineh Bidziil Coalition, Haaku Water Office of Acoma Pueblo, Black Mesa Water Coalition, Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN), International Indian Treaty Council (IITC), Western Shoshone Defense Project, Nuclear Free Future Award, Sierra Club's Environmental Justice Office in Flagstaff, and Southwest Research and Information Center.


We, the Peoples gathered at the Indigenous World Uranium Summit, at this critical time of intensifying nuclear threats to Mother Earth and all life, demand a worldwide ban on uranium mining, processing, enrichment, fuel use and weapons testing and deployment, and nuclear waste dumping on Indigenous lands. Past, present and future generations of Indigenous Peoples have been disproportionately affected by the international nuclear weapons and power industry. The nuclear fuel chain poisons our people, land, air, and waters and threatens our very existence and our future generations. Nuclear power is not a solution to global warming. Uranium mining, nuclear energy development and international agreements (e.g., the recent U.S.-India nuclear cooperation treaty) that foster the nuclear fuel chain violate our basic human rights and fundamental natural laws of Mother Earth, endangering our traditional cultures and spiritual well being. We reaffirm the Declaration of the World Uranium Hearing in Salzburg, Austria in 1992, that "uranium and other radioactive materials must remain in their natural location." Further, we stand in solidarity with the Navajo Nation for enacting the Dine Resources Protection Act of 2005, which bans uranium mining and processing and is based on the fundamental laws of the Dine [Navajo]. And we dedicate ourselves to a nuclear free future. Indigenous Peoples are connected spiritually and culturally to our Mother the Earth . . . .

Information source and contact:
Manuel Pino
9000 E. Chaparral Rd.
Scottsdale, Arizona 85256-2626
United States
Phone: 480-423-6221

I-1 . Lack of clean-up and reclamation of uranium sites from the 1950’s through 1980’s uranium boom

I.1.1) Navajo Nation Lands: The largest single source of uranium ore in the United States was/is the Colorado Plateau located in the “Four Corners” area: Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona. The U.S. Federal Government, the sole legal purchaser of uranium ore, paid discovery bonuses and guaranteed purchase prices to anyone who found and delivered uranium ore. The Feds twisted the arms of the tribes, principally Diné, with the promise of good jobs and even royalties (the Diné are still waiting for those checks) and by assuring them that it was the “patriotic” thing to do. The economic incentives resulted in a frenzy of exploration and mining activity throughout the Colorado Plateau from 1947 through 1959.

More than 1,000 old uranium mines and four abandoned processing mills are scattered across the Navajo Nation, which spans parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. From 1944 to 1986, 3.9 million tons of uranium ore were extracted by private companies from the region. The tribe retained a former federal prosecutor Thursday to coordinate an effort to finish the cleanup and eventually to help Navajos made ill by exposure.

The biggest expulsion of radioactive material in the United States occurred July 16, 1979, at 5 a.m. on the Navajo lands. Moore than 1,100 tons of uranium mining tailings gushed through a packed-mud dam near Church Rock, N.M. With the tailings, 100 million gallons of radioactive water gushed through the dam before the crack was repaired. By 8 a.m., radioactivity was monitored in Gallup, N.M., nearly 50 miles away. The contaminated river, the Rio Puerco, showed 7,000 times the allowable standard of radioactivity for drinking water below the broken dam shortly after the breach was repaired, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

In April, 2005, Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley, Jr. signed a tribal law banning uranium mining and milling while dozens of community members and dignitaries looked on. The act finds that based on those fundamental laws, "certain substances in the Earth that are harmful to the people should not be disturbed, and that the people now know that uranium is one such substance, and therefore, that its extraction should be avoided as traditional practice and prohibited by Navajo law.”

President Shirley commented, "As long as there are no answers to cancer, we shouldn't have uranium mining on the Navajo Nation. I believe the-powers-that-be committed genocide on Navajo land by allowing uranium mining. I don't want to subject any more of my people to exposure to uranium and the cancers that it causes. I believe we reinforced our sovereignty today."

See extensive EPA files and photos regarding these sites:!OpenDocument
Information source and contact:
EPA Site Manager
Andrew Bain
75 Hawthorne
San Francisco , CA 94105

I.1. 2) Laguna Pueblo: The Jackpile is now undergoing a $48 million reclamation program - paid for by ARCO and conducted by the Laguna tribe - aimed at restoring the landscape to resemble the way it appeared before the exploitation began. The reclamation estimate for complete restoration back to its original landscape, including filling all the pits and leveling all the piles was $400 million—but no one was willing to foot that bill. T

Many at an environmental conference held in Laguna, New Mexico said the current reclamation effort was only partially completed and a lot of the uranium from the mine waste already had leached into the soil and water.

"Two tributaries near the mine and the Rio San Jose have already tested positive for radiation contamination," according to Manual Pino with the Laguna-Acoma Coalition for a Safe Environment. "It's one of the best kept secrets of the United States."

Purley, who lived less than 1,000 meters from Jackpile said she was not happy with progress of the reclamation project. "Every time the rain falls there is still this strange smell by the mine."

See Department of Energy, Energy Citations Database: Environmental-Social Aspects of Energy Technologies

Information source and contact:
U.S. Department of Energy
Office of Scientific and Technical Information
P.O. Box 62
Oak Ridge, TN 37831

I.1.3) Lakota-Sioux lands in the Black Hills of South Dakota

Riley Pass Abandoned Uranium Mines : This mining area has the highest grade uranium ore in this country and even becomes more concentrated once burned on site using diesel fuel, then it was converted to 80% to 90% uranium oxide per pound. In its natural state, content is on the order of 3% to 10% per pound. Although these mines are highly toxic, the U.S. Forest Service has been deferring to the 1872 mining law and concedes that the mining companies are not obligated to remediate their strip mine. Therefore, the U.S. Forest Service requested the U.S. EPA to place the Riley Pass Abandoned Uranium Mine under Superfund for remediation. The Custer National Forest, Sioux Ranger District with the assistance of EPA and the State of South Dakota, has developed a final cleanup plan for the Riley Pass Abandoned Uranium Mine in the North Cave Hills.

The U.S. EPA gave $22 million to the U.S. Forest Service to remediate the abandoned uranium mine nearly two years ago. At this time, after some thirty years the work is scheduled to begin summer of 2007.

See Final Engineering Evaluation and Cost Analysis (EE/CA), Riley Pass Abandoned Uranium Mine:
Information source and contact:
Custer National Forest
Nancy Curriden, Forest Supervisor
1310 Main Street
Billings, MT 59105

Standing Rock Site: Current water samples by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe (SRST) indicate that during this drought period that radionuclide levels in the Grand River have averaged 5 picocuries/liter to 7 picocuries/liter. We assume that the radionuclides precipitate in water and become mobile during rainstorms and snowmelt, we feel that the SRST water samples are insufficient to conclude that the Grand River is "safe." We also assume that during extreme rainfalls and snowfalls that the levels increase exponentially. The SRST water samples also are nearly identical to the water samples taken by the State of South Dakota last year and, like the SRST, the State has not considered high precipitation events as a factor in their reasoning that the Grand River is "safe."

Photos of runoff from abandoned uranium mine in Black Hills


2004: Radioactive stormwater runoff from base of mine in the distance.


May 2005, the year they fixed it.

May 2006, the “fix” did not stop the drainage.

Information source and contact:
Charmaine White Face
Defenders of the Black Hills
PO Box 2003
Rapid City , SD 57709

Attachment Three: Uranium Mining and Nuclear Pollution in the Upper Midwest

I.1.4) Washington State: Spokane Reservation: The only uranium mining in Washington State was on the Spokane Indian Reservation: the Sherwood Uranium Mine and the Midnite Uranium Mine, owned by a subsidiary of Newmont Mining Company, Dawn Mining Company, which until 1981 operated the Midnite Mine on the Spokane Indian Reservation. The open-pit uranium mine, now a Superfund site, is the source of radiation and heavy metal contamination of Blue Creek, which flows into the Spokane River arm of Lake Roosevelt. For information on current situation

Midnite Mine, located on the Spokane Indian Reservation eight miles from the Tribal complex in Wellpinit, is an inactive open-pit uranium mine closed in 1981, leaving behind 2.4 million tons of stockpiled ore (containing 2 million pounds of uranium oxide) and 33 million tons of waste rock. Two of the six excavated pits are open and partially filled with water. Exposed rock from the ore piles generate acid rock drainage. Radionuclides and heavy metals have contaminated groundwater, seeps and surface water, including Blue Creek.

Radionuclides of concern at the Midnite mine and in downstream watersheds include Uranium-238 decay series isotopes such as Uranium-238, Radium-226, Thorium-230 and Radon-222. Heavy metal contaminants of concern include: Aluminum, Arsenic, Barium, Beryllium, Cadmium, Chromium, Cobalt, Copper, Lead, Manganese, Molybdenum, Nickel, Selenium, Silver, Thallium, Uranium, Vanadium, and Zinc. The waste rock piles and the ore remaining in the open pits at the Midnite mine have significant sulfide content leading to acid generating conditions that release heavy metals and other pollutants into surface and ground water.

The Midnite Mine operated from 1955–1981 under the ownership of a subsidiary of Newmont Mining Corporation: Dawn Mining Company. Today the mine looks like an open wound in the heart of the Spokane Indian Reservation. Dawn abandoned the pits and 33 million tons of waste rock they created without conducting reclamation work to either rehabilitate the site or prevent release of pollutants. As a result, radionuclides, heavy metals and other pollutants have spread several miles beyond the mine site, leaving a toxic trail in downstream creeks and valleys and in downwind plants and hillsides in the central part of the Spokane Indian Reservation. It is now designated as a federal Superfund site requiring a $280 million cleanup. The design phase of the clean-up has been completed; however, the work has not started because EPA has not been able to get Newmont Corporation to fund the work. This means that the clean-up costs would fall to the taxpayers to do so.

Recently, the site made news when a helicopter, fighting a forest fire, took two bucket loads from the unfenced pond about 40 miles northwest of Spokane on the Reservation. The tailings pond, about a half-mile from the fire, holds waste from uranium ore processing by a former Dawn Mining mill at the site. The manager of the mining company asserted, "You wouldn't anticipate an aerial breach of security," he said. He didn’t bother to mention that you wouldn’t expect a toxic lake of radioactive material to sit out in the open for 30 years either. How many birds and creatures have made the same mistake the fireman did.

This site is a perfect example of a mining company—Newmont Mining Corporation—that should not be allowed another mining permit until this site has been cleaned and reclaimed.

Open pit lake at the Midnite Mine

See EPA Files regarding site:

Information Source:
United States Environmental Protection Agency
Ariel Rios Building
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
MC 2843
Washington, DC 20460
(202) 564-2592

I.1.5) Tohono O’dham Nation, Arizona: The Cyprus Tohono Mine, on Tohono O’dham land, is operated by Phelps Dodge/Freeport-McMoran. In 2005, EPA issued an administrative order requiring the company to clean up tailings containing toxic salt and uranium on a 450-acre area of its 10,505-acre mine site. This site leached uranium into the groundwater and fouled a tribal community’s drinking water well. The public water well was relocated to an area untouched by the contamination. Two of the evaporation ponds and the mill tailings impoundment are considered to have contributed to groundwater contamination of an aquifer that was previously the sole source of drinking water for the North Komelik community.

Removal of the salts and tailings is now underway. These wastes are being piled on a plastic pad, which will then be capped so that no water can get in to move the toxic radioactive materials.

Area residents have also reported that in certain wind conditions dust from the mine blows up into North Komelik, creating potential inhalation of particulate contamination. Contaminated soil will be excavated, placed on a liner, and covered with a soil cap. The work will cost an estimated $18 million will be completed by the mining company.

This is another example of a mine that should not be permitted until the contamination has been contained or cleaned up. Note that removal and reclamaiming the 10,000 acres is not even being considered.

EPA Files regarding site:!OpenDocument
U.S. EPA Region 9
John Hillenbrand
75 Hawthorne Street
San Francisco , CA, 94105 

I .1.6 ) Hopi Land, Yuba City, AZ Based upon information provided by life-long residents, the Hopi Water Resources Program, Environmental Protection Office (Hopi EPO), and Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency (NN EPA) are investigating whether the Tuba City Open Dump site may contain radioactive and hazardous waste. This mixed waste (radioactive and hazardous waste) was allegedly dumped during the operation of the former Rare Metals Corporation of America, a uranium mill tailings facility located approximately six miles northeast of Tuba City. The Rare Metals facility processed uranium ore into high-grade uranium from as early as 1962 to 1968 to support U.S. military efforts.

For entire report, see

Information source and contacts:

Pui Man Wong
U.S. EPA Community Involvement Coordinator
75 Hawthorne St. (SFD-3)
San Francisco, CA 94105
(415) 972-3242 or Toll Free (800) 231-3075

Gayl Shingoitewa-Honanie
Hopi EPO (Primary Hopi Contact)
P.O. Box 123
Kykotsmovi, AZ 86039
(928) 734 -3631


I-2. Health Concerns

I .2.1) EPA Regulations:

The physical problems, such as lung cancer and various respiratory problems were caused by working in the mines. However, the general populace in the vicinity of the mines also were affected by dust blown from the mines and tailings. Some of the symptoms took years to appear—and the chromosomal damage done was even slower to show up. There’s no doubt that the U.S. Government and its agencies have done a poor job in helping the affected communities recover from economic, health and environmental contamination. The financial compensation from the Department of Energy that has been doled out after long investigations and copious paperwork manifested long after most of the miners were dead.

Information of health effects from radionuclides from EPA

Information Source:
Environmental Protection Agency
Administrator: Stephen Johnson
Office of the Administrator
Ariel Rios Building, Room 3000
1200 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20468

Radionuclides (including Radon, Radium and Uranium)

Hazard Summary-Created in April 1992; Revised in January 2000

Uranium, radium, and radon are naturally occurring radionuclides found in the environment.  No information is available on the acute (short-term) non-cancer effects of the radionuclides in humans.  Animal studies have reported inflammatory reactions in the nasal passages and kidney damage from acute inhalation exposure to uranium.  Chronic (long-term) inhalation exposure to uranium and radon in humans has been linked to respiratory effects, such as chronic lung disease, while radium exposure has resulted in acute leucopenia, anemia, necrosis of the jaw, and other effects.  Cancer is the major effect of concern from the radionuclides.  Radium, via oral exposure, is known to cause bone, head, and nasal passage tumors in humans, and radon, via inhalation exposure, causes lung cancer in humans.  Uranium may cause lung cancer and tumors of the lymphatic and hematopoietic tissues.  EPA has not classified uranium, radon or radium for carcinogenicity.

Please Note: The main sources of information for this fact sheet are EPA's:
1) Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS), which contains information on oral chronic toxicity
2) RfD ( inhalation reference concentration): for uranium
3) Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry's (ATSDR's) Public Health Service, US. Toxicological Profiles for Uranium, Radium, and Radon

Health Hazard Information

Acute Effects:

  • No information is available on the acute effects of uranium, radium, or radon in humans. (2-4)
  • Animal studies have reported inflammatory reactions in the nasal passages and kidney damage from acute inhalation exposure to uranium. (2)
  • Acute animal tests in rats, mice, and guinea pigs, have shown uranium to have low to moderate toxicity from inhalation exposure and high toxicity from oral exposure. (2)

Chronic Effects (Non-cancer):

  • Several studies have found no increased deaths in uranium workers due to kidney disease, however, one study of uranium mill workers chronically exposed to uranium showed kidney dysfunction. (2)
  • Animal studies have reported effects on the kidney from chronic inhalation and oral exposure to uranium. (2)
  • EPA has not established a Reference Concentration (RfC) for uranium (soluble salts or natural). (5,6)
  • ATSDR has established a chronic inhalation minimal risk level (MRL) of 0.0003 milligrams per cubic meter (mg/m 3) for uranium (soluble salts) based on renal tubule lesions in dogs. The MRL is an estimate of the daily human exposure to a hazardous substance that is likely to be without appreciable risk of adverse non-cancer health effects over a specified duration of exposure.  Exposure to a level above the MRL does not mean that adverse health effects will occur.  The MRL is intended to serve as a screening tool. (2)
  • The Reference Dose (RfD) for uranium (soluble salts) is 0.003 milligrams per kilogram body weight per day (mg/kg/d) based on body weight loss and moderate nephrotoxicity in rabbits. The RfD is an estimate (with uncertainty spanning perhaps an order of magnitude) of a daily oral exposure to the human population (including sensitive subgroups) that is likely to be without appreciable risk of deleterious non-cancer effects during a lifetime.  It is not a direct estimator of risk but rather a reference point to gauge the potential effects.  At exposures increasingly greater than the RfD, the potential for adverse health effects increases.  Lifetime exposure above the RfD does not imply that an adverse health effect would necessarily occur. (6)
  • EPA has medium confidence in the study on which the RfD was based since it was well designed, but used a small number of experimental animals; medium confidence in the database because there are adequate studies on the effects of uranium in various species; and, consequently, medium confidence in the RfD. (6)
  • Chronic exposure to radium in humans, by inhalation, has resulted in acute leucopenia, while oral exposure has resulted in anemia, necrosis of the jaw, abscess of the brain, and terminal bronchopneumonia. (3)
  • Chronic exposure to radon in humans and animals via inhalation has resulted in respiratory effects (chronic lung disease, pneumonia, fibrosis of the lung, decreased lung function), while animal studies have also reported effects on the blood and a decrease in body weights. (4)
  • EPA has not established an RfC or an RfD for radium or radon. (7,8)

Reproductive/Developmental Effects:

  • Limited evidence from epidemiological studies suggests that uranium or radon exposure may result in a decreased ratio of live male to female births in humans.  However, it is not certain if the effect is from uranium or radon exposure because the workers were also exposed to other compounds (2,4)
  • Animal studies have reported reduced number of offspring, reduced fetal body weight and length, and an increase in skeletal malformations from oral exposure to uranium in animals. (2)
  • No information is available on the developmental or reproductive effects of radium in humans or animals. (3)

Cancer Risk:

  • Radium and radon are potent human carcinogens.  Radium, via oral exposure, is known to cause lung, bone, head (mastoid air cells), and nasal passage tumors.  Radon, via inhalation exposure, causes lung cancer. (3,4)
  • Smokers exposed to radon are at greater risk for lung cancer (approximately 10 to 20 times) than are nonsmokers similarly exposed. (1)
  • Studies in uranium miners have shown an increase in lung cancer and tumors of the lymphatic and hematopoietic tissues from inhalation exposure.  However, it is not known whether the cancer risk is from uranium itself, or from radon or other confounding factors. (2)
  • EPA has not classified radium, radon or uranium for carcinogenicity. (2-4)

For full report: See

I.2.2) Health Problems in Native American populations exposed to uranium mining and its radioactive contamination

For more than forty years, the people of South Dakota, Washington, Arizona and New Mexico have been subjected to radioactive polluted dust and water runoff from hundreds of abandoned open pit uranium mines, processing sites and waste dumps.

GAO gives update on Radiation Exposure Compensation program status
of Uranium worker data from April 1992 through June 30, 2007:


Claims approved

Claims denied

Claims pending

Total payments

Uranium Miner




$455 million

Uranium Miller




$100 million

Uranium Ore Transporter




$22 million










$577 million

  Download GAO Report Radiation Exposure Compensation Act: Program Status, September 7, 2007

I.2.2.1) Navajo Land, Arizona: The Indian Health Service data shows that cancer death rate on the reservation from the early 1970s to the late 1990s. Researchers admit that exposure to mining byproducts in the soil, air and water almost certainly contributed to the increase in Navajo cancer mortality.

However, the government has never conducted a comprehensive study of the health effects of uranium mining on the reservation. But individual scientists working on their own have documented that cancer rates are higher near old mines and mills. Not only uranium, but other toxic by-products of mining common in the Southwest, such as arsenic and heavy metals, have been found in one out of five drinking-water sources sampled.

See Navajo Uranium Radiation Victims

I.2.2.2) Acoma and Laguna Pueblos, New Mexico:

Testimony given my Manuel Pino, Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico to the Swedish Parliament in 2006

Acoma Pueblo’s neighbor to the east is Laguna Pueblo, and about 15 miles from where their borders meet is the Jackpile mine, North America’s largest open pit uranium mine from 1952 until 1982.

“Living in close proximity to that mine, we disproportionately suffered from the environmental impacts, such as water contamination, air quality impacts, and environmental degradation to the soil and to domestic and wild animals,” Pino said.

“The contaminants from the Jackpile mine spread throughout the landscape. It came on the wind to our grazing areas, through the jet stream and the wind and air patterns, which affected our air quality. Then the monsoons would fill the arroyos and carry the contaminants to major tributaries that seeped into the underground water table.”

Documented cancer clusters among the Navajo, Acoma and Laguna tribes eventually led to the Uranium Workers Act of 2000, designed to compensate miners for exposure to radioactive contaminants. It is actually an amendment to 1990’s Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, which held standards of exposure to such heights that former workers and their families were not eligible for compensation. Pino has worked for years helping Native miners file claims under the UWA.

Information Source:
Manuel Pino
9000 E. Chaparral Rd.
Scottsdale, Arizona 85256-2626
United States
Phone: 480-423-6221

I .2.2.3) Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico: In addition to impact of Jackpile mine on the east side of the Pueblo, on the west side, there is an impact of “down-winder” syndrome from the inhalation of radioactive particulate from mining waste. High desert winds of up to 70 mph bring dust from the tailings ponds of the Homestake mine, which inundate the Pueblo regularly. Although there is not an actual mine site on their land, the Acoma people have lost a generation of their people to cancer. A new diagnosis of cancer or a death by cancer occurs on a weekly basis even today. The Homestake and Mt. Taylor mines are upstream from a perennial creek that flows through the Pueblo, creating a potential threat to the water supply of the Pueblo.

Information source and contact:
Laura Watchempino
Water Quality Specialist
P.O. Box 309
Acoma , NM 87304

I.2.2. 3) Spokane Reservation, Washington:
“People do not know to stay out of the site because of health dangers,” Deb Abrahamson of SHAWL Society said, telling of a tribal hunter who recently shot a llama near the site.

“Although uranium mining made the United States what it is today, there was no analysis of the impact on our people,” said Deb, whose father, grandparents and uncles worked on the site. 

“Our people never had a full say in establishing the mine because of internal marginalization,” she explained.  “After the Homestead Act opened reservation land to homesteaders, many people were adopted into the tribe. That helped disempower and disenfranchise our people. 

“Few old-timers remain. The median age of the 2,300 people is now 26,” she said.

In addition, the tribe did not have the money or education to battle it.  Our grandparents, parents, uncles and aunts never knew about the danger. 

“They worked in the mine and brought back yellow cake. My father, who worked double shifts, was not told he was bringing that radioactive material home,” Deb said.  “The tribal health educator and teachers either lacked information or were in denial. 

“We did not link deaths to the mine.  Our primary care provider, Indian Health Services, was a government arm, so why would it gather data for baseline health survey on radiation?”

Information source contact:
Deb Abrahamson
SHAWL Society
P.O. Box 61
Wellpinit, Washington 99040
Phone: 509-747-3115

I -3: Technologically enhanced radioactive materials

The pervasive nature of uranium mining entering the air, water and soil of the environment as “technologically enhanced” material must be taken into consideration, particularly for health concerns.

EPA Report: Technologically Enhanced Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (TENORM) in the Southwestern Copper Belt of Arizona- 1999

Information source and contact:
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,
Office of Radiation and Indoor Air,
Radiation Protection Division
401 M St.
SW Washington, D.C. 20460


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been working over the past several years to better understand the nature and extent of TENORM that may become concentrated at copper mining sites. This document presents the information that EPA has compiled on this issue to date. The literature on the subject indicates the presence of uranium and thorium in minerals associated with porphyry copper deposits in Arizona. Copper extraction and beneficiation operations may concentrate these radioactive materials. Samples taken by the ADEQ from several copper mines indicate that TENORM has been found to occur above background levels in surface water and in some mining process and waste streams. The data also show evidence of TENORM in surface water, groundwater and soils. The data suggest that dump leaching operations and solvent extraction-electro-winning procedures, as well as the practice of recycling raffinate at copper mines, extract and concentrate soluble radioactive materials. The results show increases of up to two orders of magnitude over background levels for samples of all radio-chemicals tested except Rn-222. Radiological data in this report represent a sampling of mine wastes at specific facilities and do not necessarily represent other copper operations. Based on the data presented herein, there is an increased likelihood that copper leach operations and their associated solvent extraction― electrowinning circuits in Arizona concentrate TENORM.


In 1992, ADEQ shared with EPA data on TENORM emanating from copper mines. EPA has continued to work with ADEQ to assemble the available data. As part of its groundwater and surface water protection programs, ADEQ requires mining companies to submit APPAs containing facility-specific radiochemical characterizations. As a result, ADEQ and EPA have accumulated in excess of 3200 analyses of radionuclides at 15 mining sites in the copper industry. This report reviews the current information on the occurrence and distribution of TENORM at mines in Arizona and contains tables of all the available data as of 1997.

Tables 1 through 5 summarize the data according to media, including: groundwater, surface water, soil-sediment, process solutions, and process wastes. Instances when the average levels of radioactivity exceed the federal maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) or Arizona guidelines are shown in bold. The groundwater media included about 2220 analyses from about 176 wells at nine mines. The surface water media included about 197 analyses from nine mine audits, eight washes, and six creeks at seven mine sites. As many as 25 soil samples were taken from four mines to support 110 analyses.

Levels in excess of the federal MCLs and state guidelines were found in groundwater and surface water samples, as well as soil and sediment samples at abandoned and active copper mines. TENORM exceedences were also found in groundwater at active and inactive copper mines. Uranium byproducts were recovered from heap leach dumps and in-situ operations that feed SX-EW and ion exchange circuits at several copper mines. Radioactivity was discovered in copper mineral processing waste streams. Elevated levels of radioactivity were also found to occur in the process solutions and process wastes. . . . .

Data presented within this report represent a sampling of copper mines and facilities, and may not necessarily represent all copper operations in the state. The impacts of copper mining are noteworthy because of unique conditions, such as the presence of trace uranium minerals and the mining and extraction methods that unintentionally extract radioactive materials and enhance its environmental mobility. Tables 1-5 present data on the mining sites where TENORM has been documented by ADEQ. These sites are: Cyprus Bagdad (CB), Cyprus Twin Buttes (TB), Cyprus Sierrita (CS), Phelps Dodge Copper Queen (CQ), Pinto Valley (PV), Mineral Park (MP), Phelps Dodge Morenci (MM), Phelps Dodge New Cornelia (NC), American Legion (AL), De la Fontaine (DF), Hillside (HS), Three R s (TR), Magma Florence (MF), Santa Cruz (SC), and Magma San Manual (SM). Groundwater, surface water, process solution and process waste data in Tables 1-5 are expressed in pCi/L, while soil and sediment data are expressed in pCi/g.

Table 1: Groundwater Statistical Data (except Morenci) (pCi/L)


Mine Sites





Std. Dev.

Gross Alpha







Gross Beta




























Total Ra






































Levels of radioactivity in excess of federal MCLs or Arizona guidelines are shown in bold


Table 2: Surface Water Statistical Data (pCi/L)


Mine Sites





Std. Dev.

Gross Alpha







Gross Beta



























































Levels of radioactivity in excess of federal MCLs or Arizona guidelines are shown in bold



Table 3: Sediment and Soil Statistical Data (pCi/g)



Mine Sites





Std. Dev.

Gross Alpha







Gross Beta





























4 Mines


Levels of radioactivity in excess of federal MCLs or Arizona guidelines are shown in bold



Table 4: Process Solutions Statistical Data (pCi/L)



Mine Sites





Std. Dev.

Gross Alpha







Gross Beta
























































For entire report, see

I.4. Disposal of Toxic Waste

Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act

The Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act (UMTRCA) of 1978 allows the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to regulate cleanup activities at inactive uranium tailings disposal sites. The statute provided for the Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action Project, which identified 24 inactive uranium sites (two of which have been delisted) at which the DOE monitored the contamination, ground water, and maintenance. These sites also will be part of the Long-Term Surveillance and Maintenance Program, which provides for surveillance, ground water monitoring, and maintenance of sites cleaned up under the UMTRCA Program. In addition, DOE cleaned up properties in the vicinity of the sites contaminated with residual radioactive materials. DOE’s Office of Environmental Management now calls it “DOE’s oldest and most successful environmental restoration project.”

UMTRCA amended the Atomic Energy Act by directing EPA to set generally applicable health and environmental standards to govern the stabilization, restoration, disposal, and control of effluents and emissions at both active and inactive uranium and thorium mill tailings sites. The standards limit air emissions and address soil and ground water contamination at both operating and closed facilities (42 USC 2022 et seq.).

Title I of the Act covers inactive uranium mill tailing sites, depository sites, and vicinity properties. Under this Act, EPA must set standards that provide protection as consistent with the requirements of RCRA as possible. The standards must include ground water protection limits. Title II of the Act covers operating uranium processing sites licensed by the NRC. EPA was directed to promulgate disposal standards in compliance with Subtitle C of the Solid Waste Disposal Act, as amended, to be implemented by NRC or the Agreement States. The 1993 Amendments to UMTRCA further directed EPA to promulgate general environmental standards for the processing, possession, transfer, and disposal of uranium mill tailings. The NRC was required to implement these standards at Title II sites.

In 1983, EPA developed standards to protect the public and the environment from potential radiological and non-radiological hazards at abandoned processing sites. These standards include exposure limits for surface contamination and concentration limits for ground water contamination. DOE is responsible for bringing surface and ground water contaminant levels at the 22 sites (two sites were delisted) into compliance with EPA standards. DOE is accomplishing this through the UMTRCA Surface and Ground Water Projects.

1) U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Abandoned Mine Lands Team Reference Manual:
2) Radioactive Waste Disposal: An Environmental Perspective
3) Field Demonstration of Permeable Reactive Barriers To Remove Dissolved Uranium From Groundwater, Fry Canyon,

Information source and contact for above three reports:
United States Environmental Protection Agency
Ariel Rios Building
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
MC 2843
Washington, DC 20460
(202) 564-2592

II-5. Cultural Impacts

Public attention is now being given to the cultural impacts on the indigenous peoples, not only in U.S., but throughout the world. Many Native American tribes still depend on natural resources for food. Throughout the world, indigenous peoples in particular have seen their centuries-old traditions razed by the introduction of industrial-scale business. From Alaska to Nevada, mining projects have left native tribes plagued by contaminated waterways and forests, health problems, upsurges in violence from the influx of outsiders, neglect of local traditions, and community infighting between those who want jobs at any price to the environment and those who want to preserve a way of life that has persevered for several thousand years.

United Nations adopts Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples

13 September 2007

The General Assembly today adopted a landmark declaration outlining the rights of the world’s estimated 370 million indigenous people and outlawing discrimination against them – a move that followed more than two decades of debate.

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has been approved after 143 Member States voted in favor, 11 abstained and four – Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States – voted against the text.

A non-binding text, the Declaration sets out the individual and collective rights of indigenous peoples, as well as their rights to culture, identity, language, employment, health, education and other issues.

The Declaration emphasizes the rights of indigenous peoples to maintain and strengthen their own institutions, cultures and traditions and to pursue their development in keeping with their own needs and aspirations. It also prohibits discrimination against indigenous peoples and promotes their full and effective participation in all matters that concern them, and their right to remain distinct and to pursue their own visions of economic and social development.

Information source and contact:
The Secretariat of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
Secretariat of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
United Nations, 2 UN Plaza
Room DC2-1772
New York, NY, 10017
Tel: 1 917 367 5100

Attachment Four: On the Cultural Impacts of Mining