MAC: Mines and Communities

Former uranium miner to pay $500,000 for clean-up in the U.S.

Published by MAC on 2014-08-31
Source: Mining.com, statement (2014-08-29)

Former uranium miner to pay $500,000 for clean-up in the U.S.

Cecilia Jamasmie

Mining.com

29 August 2014

Homestake Mining, a former uranium miner, has been ordered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to pay $500,000 for clean-up at its four abandoned uranium mines in the Mariano Lake and Smith Lake on the Navajo Nation's lands.

"EPA has a polluter pays policy that seeks to make those responsible for environmental damage pay for the clean-up," said in a statement Jared Blumenfeld, EPA's Administrator in the Pacific Southwest Region.

Over the next few months, Homestake will have to conduct extensive radiation survey of the mine sites to measure risks, backfill open holes and mitigate surface features that pose physical threats to people or animals.

The company will also have to post bilingual warning signs around the sites, as well as sample surface and subsurface soils in the areas around the mines. This first phase of clean-up of the uranium contamination is expected to be completed by fall 2015.

The Mariano Lake mine operated as a uranium mine from 1977 to 1982. From 1944 to 1986 nearly 4 million tons of uranium ore was extracted from mines on lands belonging to the Navajo Nation, which holds nearly 70,000 square km of land spread over three states in the Four Corners area of the U.S. Southwest.


EPA orders mine cleanup work at Smith Lake and Mariano Lake Areas

EPA press release

28 August 2014

SAN FRANCISCO - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has reached an agreement with Homestake Mining Company of California requiring the company to assess contamination and address safety hazards at four abandoned uranium mines in the Mariano Lake and Smith Lake areas on the Navajo Nation. The EPA and the Navajo Nation will oversee the work.

"EPA has a polluter pays policy that seeks to make those responsible for environmental damage pay for the cleanup," said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA's Administrator in the Pacific Southwest Region. "This work, which will cost about $500,000, is another element in our partnership to deal with the toxic legacy of abandoned uranium mines."

Under the agreement, Homestake will set aside funds for EPA's oversight of future cleanup.

Over the next several months, Homestake will conduct extensive radiation surveys of the mine sites to assess risks, backfill open holes and mitigate surface features that pose physical threats to people or animals. The company will also post bilingual (English/Navajo) warning signs around the mine sites and sample surface and subsurface soils in the areas around the mines. This work is the first phase of cleaning up the uranium contamination at the four mine sites, and is expected to be completed by fall 2015.

This work at the Mariano Lake and Smith Lake sites is part of a broader program to screen, assess, and clean up abandoned uranium mine sites throughout Navajo Nation. In 2008, the EPA in partnership with the Department of Energy, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Indian Health Service and Nuclear Regulatory Committee developed a five year plan to address the legacy of abandoned uranium mines on the Navajo Nation. For more information on past accomplishments, please visit: http://www.epa.gov/region9/superfund/navajo-nation/

Contact Information: Margot Perez-Sullivan, (415) 947-4149, perezsullivan.margot[at]epa.gov

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