Freeport-McMoRan (NYSE:FCX) has entered into an agreement with the US government for the cleanup of 94 abandoned uranium mines on Navajo land, the U.S. Justice Department said on Tuesday.
Under the deal, valued at more than $600 million, Freeport-McMoRan units Cyprus Amax Minerals Co and Western Nuclear Inc will perform the work and the federal government will contribute approximately half of the costs, the department said in a statement.
The mining operations stretched across the vast Navajo Nation reservation — from western New Mexico into Arizona and southern Utah. The last uranium mine shut down in 1986.
From 1944 to 1986, nearly 30 million tonnes of uranium ore were extracted from their lands, with the federal government purchasing the ore to make atomic weapons during the Cold War.
There are over 500 abandoned uranium mines on Navajo Nation territory and funds available to begin the cleanup process at about 200 of them.
Many Navajo people have died of kidney failure and cancer, conditions linked to uranium contamination, shows a recent study from Prevention Research Centers, a network of 26 academic research centres focused on how people and their communities can avoid or counter the risks for chronic illnesses.