Laws Regulations and Policies of Navajo Uranium Miners

Document Type:Thesis

Subject Area:Management

Document 1

Aim and inspiration for the current research study……………………………. Historical Background …………………………………………………………. A Brief History of the Navajo Nation Mining ………………………………… 6. What Happen- Mining Disasters in Navajo Nation ……………………… 7. The harmful effects of Uranium Exposure Environment and Human Health 8. Methods …………………………………………………………………………… 9. Findings ………………………………………………………………………………. Recommendations …………………………………………………………………. Conclusions ……………………………………………………………………………. Literature review on the mining of Navajo Nation Mining ………………… a. Literature on history of mining legacy in Navajo Nation………………. b. Mining disasters in Navajo Nation………………………………………8 c. Literature on research conducted at Navajo Nation……………………. d. Literature on policy decisions and legislative measures………………. e. Literature on ongoing initiatives…………………………………………11-13 13. References………………………………………………………………………17-19 Abstract The purpose of this research study is to understand the impact of uranium mining on the health of Navajo uranium miners on the nation reservation living in the Eastern part. Literature reveals that extensive and unchecked mining adversely affected the health of the the miners and their families. The residents were kept in the dark about the health hazards of uranium exposure by the authorities. Several studies proved that the greater prevalence of diseases amongst the residents was due to chronic exposure to radioactive and heavy metals. Their vows were further exacerbated by poverty, low levels of education and other sociocultural factors. Currently, several community-based initiatives and government laws exist to spread awareness on the issue and safeguard the rights of the residents against exploitation in the future. This study aims to investigate the health issues of mining in Navajo, its impact on environment, human health, governmental policies and current initiatives to tackle the situation. The current study also highlights some corporate practices that may help avoid unchecked exploitation of natural resources in the future.

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The focus of this paper is on uranium mining reservation and its health-related impact such as lung cancer, respiratory illness, and occupational health and safety related problems. These impacts have been experienced by many miners and community members in my own community of the Eastern Navajo reservation in Churchrock New Mexico. Introduction This research will focus on uranium mine operations in Churchrock New Mexico and surrounding areas. My research on the reservation and rural communities, and poor communities will identify the adverse impacts at the community level and the consequences from uranium mine. This research will help me understand the harmful radiation, health risk factors and the health effects of radon contamination. The Navajo Nation is estimated to cover a land area of about 27,000 square miles, occupies parts of Arizona, Mexico and Utah, and is a major tourist attraction (Navajo Tourism Department, 2017).

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Approximately 400 million tons of uranium have been extracted from mines in Navajo since the mid-twentieth century (Hunter et al. Between 1944 and 1986 alone, about 30 million tons of uranium were mined on Navajo lands, leading to the abandonment of 500 odd mines (The University of New Mexico, 2017). However, this is only 12% of the total abandoned mines in the Western USA, which totals to about 4000 (Lewis et al. Navajo men fell for the prospects of occupation close to home with good pay offered by the government in lieu of possession of their lands. Unaware of the health hazards associated with mining and processing of uranium, miners and their families soon faced the effect of radiation exposure on their health. Of the 150 men who worked in the mines during the days of active mining, 133 miners died of lung cancer or other lung diseases by 1980.

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Unsealed tunnels, pits and piles of radioactive wastes lie unattended till date in Navajo Nation (Moore-Naal, 2015). Currently, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and the Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency (NNEPA) are working closely to expedite the cleaning activities of 46 priority mines, based on radiation levels, proximity to human settlements and potential for spread of contaminants from the site. To gain insight into human resource management practices and corporate guidelines that may help prevent such catastrophes in the future, articles were searched for, using the keywords “human resource management practices for uranium miners”. The search was again limited to articles since 2013. results were returned, and the comprehensive analysis provided by Hart et al. was chosen for this study. The legacy of Navajo nation has been a great lesson in history.

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Continuous investment in human resource development in this area is also crucial and must not be ignored by the authorities. A Brief History of the Navajo Nation According to USEPA, about 521 abandoned mines exist on the reservation (Figure-1). Due to lack of awareness amongst the residents, most were exposed unaware to contaminated waste. Gross mismanagement of wastes exposed adults and children alike to radioactive fumes and water. Families even reportedly used contaminated water for cooking and cleaning purposes, contaminated rocks close to the mining areas were used for laying roads and for construction purposes (Carrie, 2014). The USEPA admitted that it accidentally caused the spill while preventing the release of toxic materials (Duara, 2017). Following this mishap, Navajo nation filed a lawsuit against USEPA (Lewis et al. The spill also contaminated the San Juan River, which was the primary source of irrigation for the population.

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Further, the spill occurred at the peak cultivation time of hay and alfalfa and costed dearly to farmers as well as livestock raisers (Duara, 2017). The harmful Effects of Uranium Exposure on Environment and Human Health Several studies in the past were conducted with the aim of accessing the level of uranium contamination in Navajo Nation. These health impacts include kidney toxicity, cancer due to radiological toxicity and risk of inhalation and ingestion of soluble compounds (Lewis, 2017). The Navajo people culture gives definition as a way of life, and culture defines who they are as Dine Navajo people. Uranium exposure on the Navajo Nations geology makes it one of the riches deposit sites for uranium and other renewable resources. Uranium is a naturally occurring element in trace amounts in the earth’s crust and has been used for many different purposes.

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In the last century the uranium ore was used extensively by the federal government for atomic energy defences. For example, community and labour organisations have been formed. These organizations identifies problems, conduct themselves to learn the problems and form alliances of addressing their problems. The government plays an important role of ensuring that the problems raised are addressed accordingly. Several of these articles were open access articles. To retrieve articles pertaining to health research, the key words “cross sectional studies in Navajo nation” was typed. Valuable information regarding the mining legacies, the success and failure of government policies and current initiatives emerged during the systematic literature analysis. However, data on the total casualties of the catastrophe could not be obtained, probably because of the difficulties in accurate estimation of the same.

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Findings From 1944 to 1986, nearly 30 million tons of uranium ore were extracted from Navajo lands under leases with the Navajo Nation. The five federal agencies worked together to reduce the highest risks to Navajo people from uranium contamination caused from the abandoned mines (Moore, 2015). These laws, regulations, and policies are neither well integrated nor transparent. These laws include limitation of experience which helps regulate conventional reclamation of uranium mining and uranium processing and processing facilities. The laws also regulate public involvement in uranium mining (Hoover et al, 2017). Although the Navajos are considered a Tribal ‘Reservation’, several laws passed by the federal government allowed the encroachment of these lands for mining purposes. The 66th Congress allowed leasing of tribal land to private miners for a period of 20 years, with renewal rights granted every decade.

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In 1919, no new reservations on public land were allowed and 5% of the revenue from mining was offered to the natives by the government. The act was based on the Fundamental Laws of Diné and banned uranium excavation and processing in Navajo lands (Lewis et al. The Uranium excavation process involves emission of pollutants which causes health problems (Hart et al, 2015). Therefore, the Natural resource Protection Act of 2005 plays an important role here by ensuring regulation of uranium mining and processing activities around mining areas. One of the bills passed for development of energy resources in Navajo includes the Indian Tribal Energy Development and Self-Determination Act, 2005. The act gave autonomy to tribal governments, such as the Navajo Tribal Council, to develop energy resources on their land without the need for approval from the US Department of Interior.

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The residents of Navajo Nation valued environmental protection (ENV), water (H2O) and preservation of cultural integrity (CUL) as the most valued considerations. These were followed by preservation of sovereignty of Navajo Nation (SOV), development of energy resources (NRG), employment opportunities (EMP) and other (ETC). Source: Necefer, L. Wong-Parodi, G. Jaramillo, P. Based on this information, several studies were conducted to correlate the greater incidences of diseases amongst residents of Navajo with radiation and heavy metal exposure and positive correlation was found in most cases. However, research investigating health impact of uranium exposure is incomplete. The woes of the residents were exacerbated by the mining disasters at the Northeast Church Uranium mine (1979), Three Mile Island Nuclear Reactor (1979) (Carrie, 2014) and the Gold King Mine (2005) (Lewis et al. Presently, laws such as the Indian Mineral Development Act (1982), Bureau of Land Management Rule (2001), Natural Resources Protection Act (2005) (Lewis et al.

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Indian Tribal Energy Development and Self-Determination Act (2005) (Necefer et al. The Navajo Nation government organized the Indigenous World Uranium Summit in 2006, to spread knowledge on the perils of radiation on human health and environment. The event was attended by over 300 Indigenous and Non-Indigenous members from 14 countries (Ken and Dazawray, n. d. The Navajo Water Project is an initiative to bring potable water to the houses of the residents. The bill passed for this locked a sum of $180 million dollars of federal funds for the same in the year in 2010. The initiative also aims to assess the impact of uranium contamination on human health by fostering inter-agency collaborations. The several agencies that have come together to realize the goals of the five-year-plans include the USEPA, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the Department of Energy (DOE), the Indian Health Service (IHS), the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry and the Centres for Disease Control (USEPA, 2017).

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Recommendations for Future Policies Although companies are driven by the motive of profit, the recent emphasis on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) can prevent future exploitation of natural resources in Navajo Nation. Mzembe et al. had reported that the agenda for CSR is based on pressures exerted by civil society organisations, government and corporate regulations, financial markets and the necessity to maintain a good company reputation. The study has discovered that there are several health risk due to uranium mining such as cancer and breathing problems. Policies and laws governing uranium mining have shown that, generally, they are purposely meant to improve the process of uranium mining and enhance human health and conservation of the environment. Generally, uranium has both good and bad properties. It can be used to save lives, but it can also kill people.

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When the mysteries of the atom were unlocked no one knew the problems that would come with it. Both my parents developed cancer and succumbed to the illness. The health and environmental impact of unchecked mining and associated mining disasters were so large that it is difficult to estimate the number of families that were affected. However, this lesson in history must not be ignored and my study tries to identify the perils of uranium mining, with regards to impact on human health and environment. I propose to identify the poor human resource management practices and the failures of government policies in ensuring the safety of inhabitants. I would also like to understand how past experiences have shaped the current government policies and what may be done in the future to tackle the situation.

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Water Deal a Milestone for Navajos. UpFront, retrieved from https://www. abqjournal. com/upfront/142147401971upfront12-14-10. htm Accessed on December 16th, 2017. Taylor, M. Iles, M. Kyle, G. Sinclair, G. Resolving long-term issues related to surface water management and monitoring associated with the Ranger Uranium Mine, Northern Territory, and Australia. Johnnye, P. Douglas, A. Begay, M. Ragin-Wilson, A. The Navajo Birth Cohort Study. pdf Accessed on Dec 16, 2017 Lewis, J. Hoover, J. Mackenzie, D. Mining and Environmental Health Disparities in Native American Communities. Current Environmental Health Reports, 4(2), 130-141. Mitchell, J. Small Energy development and Native Americans: Values and beliefs about energy from the Navajo Nation. Energy Research and Social Science, 7, 1-11. Reed, T. Tribal Planning in the Face of Environmental Injustice. Retrieved from https://www. epa. gov/navajo-nation-uranium-cleanup/cleaning-abandoned-uranium-mines Accessed on 16th December 2017 USEPA (United States Environmental Protection Agency).

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Five-Year Plan to Address Impacts of Uranium Contamination, Retrieved from https://www. epa.

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