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Posted on Jan 16, 2024 in MASE in the News, Media/Press Releases

Environment Department releases interactive dashboard of formerly operating uranium mine and mill sites

Environment Department releases interactive dashboard of formerly operating uranium mine and mill sites

Map provides the public with single source of information on complex issue

SANTA FE — New Mexico played a critical role in national defense starting in World War II by supplying uranium, the critical element in some nuclear weapons, to the federal government. Uranium continues to serve as a source material for nuclear power plants today, though no active mining or milling operations exist in the state. Unfortunately, the adverse legacy of uranium mining and milling is a very present danger to communities and remains in our land and water, posing significant risk to human health and the environment.

Today, the New Mexico Environment Department’s (NMED) Office of Strategic Initiatives has released an interactive dashboard to simplify researching the extent of uranium impacts and easily access the federal and state government agencies involved in each site’s management. The dashboard allows members of the public to easily find information on these legacy mines and milling operations in their area. The dashboard will be updated regularly as new information on each site is received by NMED.

NMED, in partnership with the Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources Department (EMNRD) and under the directive of recent legislation, created the dashboard to increase transparency for the public on the reclamation status of formerly operating uranium mine and mill sites across New Mexico. The dashboard summarizes mine and mill site information, relevant regulatory action under the jurisdiction of NMED and EMNRD, and displays information for other non-permitted sites where available. The information is displayed with land ownership information, legislative districts, mining district boundaries, and other helpful contextual layers that allow the public to toggle the layers on and off. The map is an update and expansion of EMNRD’s 2011 Legacy Uranium Mines Dashboard.

“We want to make the information on former uranium mining sites in New Mexico as easy as possible to access,” said NMED Uranium Mining Reclamation Coordinator Miori Harms. “The information on the dashboard gives everyone, from former uranium workers to neighboring communities to state and federal regulators, a single place to go for information on this topic.”

“This dashboard is an important tool to educate New Mexicans about these toxic waste sites in our state,” said New Mexico State Senator Jeff Steinborn. “It is a reminder of the unfinished business of the federal government to clean up the uranium mines used to create our nation’s nuclear stockpile.”

There are an estimated 261 uranium mine sites in New Mexico on federal, tribal, state, and private lands. At least 50 of these sites do not have an identifiable Responsible Party and do not fall under an existing regulatory or cleanup program (federal, tribal, or state), leaving them untouched for decades. HB164, passed in 2022, provided NMED and EMNRD the authority to cleanup those neglected uranium sites, and compiling this list of sites and cleanup statuses is the first step in that process. NMED and EMNRD are committed to working with federal agencies, tribal leadership, and communities to cleanup or mitigate the threat these sites pose to human health and the environment. This dashboard is a critical step in the state’s on-going effort to address the legacy of contamination left behind by the federal government and the defense industry.

This dashboard follows other efforts to increase accessibility and transparency of state data. These efforts include the Enforcement Watch website, the Wastewater Drug Monitoring Dashboard, and the Drought Information for Public Water Utilities Dashboard. NMED plans to release another dashboard later this year that will identify suspected drinking water treatment plant leaks from distribution systems. Such a dashboard will improve the quality and quantity of drinking water systems for residents.

View the Formerly Operating Uranium Mine and Mill Sites dashboard for desktop devices here and mobile devices here.