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  • The first conventional uranium mining done in the U.S. in eight years is underway at three mines in Utah and Arizona. Energy Fuels Resources says that it plans to stockpile and eventually process the uranium at its White Mesa mill facility in southeastern Utah, the last of its kind still operating in the U.S. Scott Clow is the environmental programs director for the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, which is located near the White Mesa mill. Clow says he and the tribe oppose the increase in uranium production, citing the potential for a rise in air pollution for tribal residents living near the mill. He’s also concerned about the contamination of groundwater. Energy Fuels said high market prices for uranium combined with helpful government policies and the high demand for fuel for nuclear power plants also led to the decision to increase mining.
  • A federal program tasked with surveying abandoned uranium mines used during the Cold War era held a meeting last week about mines located on the Navajo Nation. More than 3,400 defense-related uranium mines are scattered throughout the Four Corners region, the result of a prospecting rush beginning in the 1940s sponsored by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. The meeting was held in Sanostee, New Mexico, a community that’s home to 12 such abandoned mines, many of which are located at the base of the Chuska Mountains near the Sanostee Wash. The Defense-Related Uranium Mine program, or DRUM, is a Department of Energy initiative started in 2017 to both survey abandoned mines and ensure they’re sealed off and inaccessible to the public. Some Sanostee residents who attended the meeting expressed concern about runoff from the mines and its effects on livestock that graze nearby, as well as potential health problems for residents, like cancer.
  • The spill was the largest release of radioactive material in United States history. Navajo families living in the Red Water Pond Road community say they’re still dealing with the implications of it 44 years later.
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has begun using new cleanup technology to remove radioactive soil from areas around Cove, Arizona. Since the 1950s, uranium mining has occurred in the Lukachukai Mountains, leading to the contamination of waterways and livestock in the region. The EPA is now using soil sorting technology to remove waste rock from two areas in Cove that had previously served as transfer stations, or sites where uranium ore was piled and eventually trucked off. Krista Brown is a remedial project manager for the EPA, and says that the soil sorter has so far been successful in separating native soil from uranium waste. And Colorado’s Prescription Drug Affordability Review Board is considering capping the price of a life-saving medication for cystic fibrosis.
  • Environmental activists and tribal leaders in Arizona are welcoming the news that President Biden could designate land surrounding the Grand Canyon as a new national moment this week. The Washington Post reported on Friday that federal officials have begun telling tribal groups to be ready for a potential Grand Canyon monument announcement sometime during Biden’s visit to Arizona. New polling results released last week by Impact Research show that voters in Arizona overwhelmingly support the designation of the monument, which would protect the region from further uranium mining. Carletta Tilousi, a Havasupai tribal council member who spoke at a meeting after the polling was released, says that the creation of the Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni Grand Canyon National Monument will help protect the Colorado River for future generations. And the Colorado Republican Party rejected a change to its bylaws that would have made it easier to opt out of next year’s primary elections.
  • On Saturday, Navajo families held a walk in remembrance of the largest release of radioactive material in U.S. history. In July of 1979, a dam holding back uranium mill waste in Church Rock, New Mexico, broke and released millions of gallons of radioactive water and debris into the Puerco River. The Red Water Pond Road community is made up of Navajo families who live in the Church Rock mining area, where the uranium waste spill occurred. They say they’re still suffering from the impacts of the disaster 44 years later. And Governor Jared Polis will serve as vice-chair of the National Governors Association.
  • On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Labor held an outreach event in Shiprock, New Mexico on the benefits available to some coal and uranium miners on the Navajo Nation. Current and former uranium miners attended the meeting to get more information about accessing benefits through the Energy Workers Program. Coal miners went to the meeting to learn more about their eligibility for federal black lung benefits. Justin Tsosie, a former coal miner and union representative who worked at the Kayenta surface Mine in Arizona, says he frequently encountered dust when he worked as a serviceman at the mine. And the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said on Tuesday that a resident of Montezuma County has tested positive for the plague.
  • On Tuesday afternoon, the Cove Chapter of the Navajo Nation and the Environmental Protection Agency held a community meeting on the EPA’s proposal to add nearby uranium mines to its Superfund National Priorities List. The mines are located in the Lukachukai Mountain Mining District in northeastern Arizona. According to Kenyon Larsen, a remedial project manager for the EPA, for years, they’ve been working to address the dozens of uranium waste piles in the district, which have contaminated groundwater and killed livestock in Cove and surrounding areas. And Governor Polis signed two measures into law Wednesday that will impact property taxes in the state.
  • Last Friday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency held an informational meeting in northeastern Arizona on the first area on the Navajo Nation to be added to the Superfund National Priorities List. The EPA has proposed adding the Lukachukai Mountain Mining District to the national list, which is made up of sites in the United States that are highly contaminated and require long-term remediation. And Colorado is one step closer to ensuring all kids can access healthy food at school regardless of their ability to pay after Governor Jared Polis signed Senate Bill 221 into law last month.
  • A new round of cutbacks is coming for some water users on the Colorado River. And a new poll shows a majority of Arizonans support permanently banning uranium mining around the Grand Canyon.