Northeast Church Rock Mine site (Photo courtesy United Nuclear Corporation)
Most of the 125-acre mine permit area is immediately adjacent to the Navajo Nation. The mine is mostly on Navajo tribal trust land, while the mill is on private fee land. There is a small community of residents who live next to the mine site on the reservation, downstream and downwind of the radioactive waste piles. The residents graze sheep, cattle and horses, and collect herbs around the area.
The disposal cell will be designed with participation from the Navajo Nation, the State of New Mexico, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the U.S. Department of Energy. Northeast Church Rock mine operated as a uranium ore mine from approximately 1967 to 1982, and included an 1,800-foot deep shaft, waste piles, and several surface ponds. Under U.S. EPA oversight and in conjunction with the Navajo Nation EPA, General Electric, United Nuclear Corporation's indirect parent corporation, conducted two previous cleanups at the site to deal with residual contamination, including the removal and rebuilding of one building in 2007, and removal of over 40,000 tons of contaminated soil in 2010. (Environment News Service, 9/29/2011)