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.
Images courtesy of EPA.