The Los Angeles Times today concluded a four-part series (with photos) on uranium mining on 27,000 square miles of Navajo lands in Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah.
It’s a depressing, but interesting, read.
Part one (nine pages) gives the background: The huge boom in uranium mining fizzled post-Cold War; when mines and processors shut down, they left piles and pits of radioactivity, seldom labeled with warning signs. Many houses were built with radioactive materials. The cancer death rate on the reservation doubled from the early 1970s to the late 1990s. Most of the Navajos were unaware of the problem; most of the government and industry figures that were aware willfully ignored it.
Part two (seven pages) digs deeper into the effect radioactivity had on the area’s water — and the children and animals who drank from it. The cases of animals born without eyes or with three legs, or children who developed corneal ulcers and liver disease, stymied medical professionals for years.
Part three (six pages) explains how a federal decontamination plan finally got underway — then was derailed by bureaucratic delays, misunderstandings, and disputes that kept the site from Superfund designation.
Part four (four pages) has the unbelievable headline “Mining firms again eyeing Navajo land.” The tribe vows a “knockdown, drag-out legal battle,” according to a tribal attorney.