The Navajo Nation geographical area extends over 26,000 square miles, occupying all of northeastern Arizona, the southeastern portion of Utah, and northwestern New Mexico. The environmental conditions vary from the dry lowlands of Cameron, Arizona to the mountainous, rough, and wet lands of the Chuska Mountain range. Mining legacy dates back to the late 1800’s for coal and the early 1900’s for minerals like uranium, vanadium, copper, and sand & gravel.
Navajo AML (NAML) was established in 1988 with the approval of the Navajo Reclamation Plan and Code by the Secretary of the Interior and The Navajo Nation. The purpose of the Program is to fulfill the requirements of Public Law 95-87, “Surface Mining and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) of 1977, which addresses abandoned mine lands reclamation. With the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE), NAML has the authority to address abandoned mine land problems that include coal and non-coal (uranium, copper etc.) mines.
In 1989, Navajo AML conducted an on-the-ground survey of abandoned mine lands and inventoried 273 coal, 33 copper and over 1000 non-coal abandoned mines. Since then, NAML has successfully reclaimed all the inventoried coal sites and received coal certification in 1994. In addition, other non-coal sites were addressed, a total of 913 uranium and 33 copper mines were reclaimed. The abandoned mines include both surface mines such as open pit, rimstrips, trenches, and underground mines with features like portals/adits, incline and vertical shafts. In the reclamation of uranium sites, the Health Physics personnel monitors radiation exposure for safety and environmental controls during the reclamation activities.
Navajo AML Reclamation continues to perform limited work on coal related issues that are reported by the public.