With a half-life of 4.5 billion years, uranium's toxic legacy of contamination will always be with us. The Colorado Plateau’s communities and landscapes continue to be poisoned by our region’s uranium legacy, which includes thousands of abandoned mines and numerous mill sites, along with polluted soil, air, and water.
The nuclear race of the 1950s launched a uranium frenzy, and thousands of prospectors rushed to the Southwest in search of the yellow dirt. By 1955, there were about 800 mines producing high grade uranium ore on the Colorado Plateau. Atomic towns popped up throughout the West, only to become ghost towns when the market dropped in the late 1980s.
Another surge in the mid-2000s prompted mining claims alarmingly close to the Grand Canyon’s north and south rims. Uranium's boom and bust cycle has left thousands of abandoned mines in need of clean-up, while many others hang in limbo waiting for uranium prices to spike again.