March 24, 2024

By Eric Jantz, Allbuquerque resident and Teracita Keyanna, Gallup resident

They look like small mesas — indistinguishable, really, from the buttes and juniper-dotted hills that are common features on New Mexico’s landscape.

Rather than being part of a landscape that reflects the ebb and flow that millennia of seasons have sculpted into the Earth, however, these mounds of uranium mining waste are obelisks memorializing the point at which humanity completely divested itself of its moral compass and put its faith in the destructive power of the atom.

These unassuming piles of soil mask a dark threat that has cost the lives and health of tens of thousands.

The sheer banality of these monuments is what makes uranium mine and mill waste so insidious. For decades, communities — mostly Native — located near mine and mill waste have implored federal, state and tribal governments to investigate the health effects they attribute to uranium waste and for media to cover their struggles. …