Through our research we found thousands of mine sites on public lands that would best be described as a radioactive ring. Moab served as our home base as it’s the birth of the uranium rush of the late 1940’s and 50’s and most of the mines are in relatively close proximity. Upon driving into Moab, you are confronted with a massive clean-up site where millions of tons of radioactive tailings have been draining into the Colorado River.
Based on our research and timeframe we had the ability to explore mining sites over a period of eight days all within driving distance to Moab UT. Poison Strip, Rio Algorm, Copper, Uneva, Chipmunk, Snowball I, II and III, and Rattlesnake mines are just several of the many places we investigated. Many of the sites have long been abandoned and are virtually unknown to the public albeit they are publicly listed as previous active mine sights. Several websites list these area’s as tourist attractions to “explore Utah’s mining history”, without including the information that it’s a radioactive contaminated site that is unregulated and hazardous, with open mine shafts, no fencing, and zero cleanup efforts in place. Due note however, that some of these sites are labeled as radioactive, mine shafts are blocked up and proper fencing and control is in place. Several are listed as superfund sites and monies are allocated for a cleanup effort but we saw only one location where effort was being applied.
The Moab Uranium Tailing Remedial action site is the only active cleanup effort we witnessed during out trip. I can only surmise the reason is because its location. I would argue that all of the mine sites are of great interest for cleanup. Utah is a desert and groundwater is sacred. Any mining that could even possibly come in contact with ground water in the area should be of great concern not only to the human population, but also the animal and plant life that surrounds this beautiful and majestic area of southeastern Utah.
The responsibility to the owners of the leases of these mines, the state of Utah and the Federal Government should take responsibility for their actions. These parties are solely responsible for preserving the water surrounding these iconic national parks.
Collaborators currently working on this project:
Long Island University Brooklyn:
Professor Jo Yarrington http://www.joyarrington.com
Utah Valley University:
Professor Reid Elem http://reidelem.com
Byron Harward http://www.blheye.com
Julie Ostler http://julieostlerphotography.com/landscape.html
David Carter http://www.davidcarter.photography
Light & Noise Inc: light-noise.com
Material Sponsorship from Hahnemuhle Paper
Uranium Watch: https://www.uraniumwatch.org
Navajo Relief Fund: http://www.nativepartnership.org/site/PageServer?pagename=nrf_index