in situ mining

Melodie Edwards

There are currently over 4,000 abandoned uranium mines in remote corners of the US. Out of sight, but for people living nearby, not out of mind. Uranium produces radon, which is known to cause lung cancer. In 2012, uranium was found in the tap water on the Wind River Indian Reservation. Many say the time has come to clean up the mess. But that could cost billions. The Obama Administration is tackling the job by pushing for new fees on mining companies, but the industry says they’re too punishing. Now, new research could make uranium clean-up significantly cheaper.

With uranium mining making a comeback across the country and especially Wyoming, a recent government report recommends that better coordination between federal agencies is needed for financial assurances  and that agencies need to update databases to find out how many abandoned mines actually exist in the U.S.

Government Accountability Office and environmental director, Anu Mittal  says in situ mining - a process where operators inject chemicals and water underground to pump uranium back to the surface for processing, may also pose future problems.