The Navajo Nation is set to receive over a billion dollars to clean up abandoned uranium mines on tribal land. The money comes after years of court battles with mining companies.
There are over 500 abandoned uranium mines on the Navajo reservation. Forty-nine of these mines were run by the Kerr-McGee Mining Corporation. When the company abandoned those sites they left a legacy of radioactive pollution.
Stephen Etsitty is head of the Navajo Environmental Protection Agency. He says some of the abandoned mines on the reservation have been cleaned to some extent, but problems remain.
"Having to deal with radioactive materials that have such a long life span and continue to be a high risk to the environment and public health, it’s going to be very good to have a resource base to go back and to a much more thorough job than has done before," Etistty said.
The money going to the Navajo Nation is part of a larger settlement of over $5 billion involving parties in multiple states.