Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly, right, listens to Gilbert Dayzie, civil engineer of the Abandoned Mine Land on the Navajo Reservation, talk about the work that has been done so far in reclaiming the lands.

President Shelly visits Navajo AML Reclamation Site


In an effort to find an answer as to why the federal government is looking to cut funding to the Abandoned Mine Land (AML) on the Navajo Reservation, Navajo President Ben Shelly toured the reclaimed uranium mine sites on June 6.

“We need to find out exactly why the federal government wants to cut funding for AML,” Shelly said during the tour.

The Navajo Nation is one of three tribal governments that are a part of the AML program and all feature uranium mines. According to, about 75 percent of the uranium mines in the country are on tribal lands.

According to a Navajo Nation press release, Madeline Roanhorse, AML department manager, said that funding for AML, at the federal level, is mostly used for coal mine reclamation.

During the tour, Roanhorse and Melvin H. Yazzie, senior reclamation specialist, gave a brief presentation on the accomplishments of AML and the ongoing progress the department has achieved in reclaiming the tribal lands according to the release.

The main question that could present obstacles in the reclaiming process according to Roanhorse is a proposal by the Obama Administration and Federal Office of Management and Budgets to eliminate payments to certified American Indian tribes and state AML programs – part of President Barack Obama’s fiscal year 2012 budget. These cuts would have a direct affect on the Navajo Nation, the Hopi Tribe, the Crow Nation and certified states according to the release.

The proposed budget plan, according to Roanhorse, ignores the 2006 Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act where certified Indian tribes are mandated to continue receiving payments from fees collected from current and past coal production on the Navajo Nation.

The briefing also drew attention to:

  • The federal government’s lack of recognition of the uranium legacy on the Navajo Nation and associated problems;
  • Misconception by the federal government that Navajo AML funding is no longer needed;
  • The need for long-term monitoring and maintenance of AML sites;
  • The large effort by the Navajo AML/UMTRA Department put into reclaiming AML sites throughout the Navajo Nation;
  • Funding community/infrastructure projects; and
  • The Public Relations efforts being done by Navajo AML/UMTRA Department.

Site tours in Tse Tah AML area, near Red Mesa, Arizona, where the Navajo President saw reclaimed mines and the difficult terrain of some abandoned mines, concluded the visit according to the release.

“Our AML and UMTRA offices still have more work and we need to see why the federal government is trying to cut their funding,” Shelly said.

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