The EPA has documented serious health effects from the abandoned Barrick Gold/Homestake uranium mine and mill. Nevertheless, plans to open the nation’s largest uranium mine in the same area north of Milan, New Mexico are continuing. Multiple permits are necessary to open the mine, but none of the permit applications appears to assess the true danger to the public.
In 2013 a draft EPA report described the cancer risk for those living near the abandoned mill and its tailings piles as 18 times higher than EPA’s “acceptable” risk. At least 20 cases of cancer, including four deaths, and 5 cases of thyroid disease are clustered within a mile of the site. Both groundwater contamination and airborne radon are major contributors to local residents’ health problems.
Despite promises from the company that the water would be cleaned up, from EPA that the huge mill tailings piles would be remediated, and from the then-head of the New Mexico Environment Department, Ron Curry, to discuss the problems with EPA’s Region 6, little has been done. Air, water and soil remain heavily contaminated. Now Strathmore Minerals wants to create more tailings before the old contamination is cleaned up and residents are adequately compensated.
Ron Curry was appointed head of EPA’s Region 6 in 2012.