Are they safe?
Erosion is visible externally on the dams, but what about below the ground?
"Leakage from tailings impoundments can also be a serious ongoing environmental problem. Leakage can transport contaminants to ground or surface water. Uncontrolled leakage can threaten the integrity of the impoundment structure itself, which can lead to the possibility of catastrophic dam/embankment failure. Catastrophic embankment failure can adversely impact downstream wild life . . . and humans.
What about safety regulations for tailings dams in Arizona?
Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) Regulates Dams
ADWR and Mine Tailing Dams
Why did the mining corporations want to avoid safety inspections? What do you think?
Dam failures occur all over the world, but this was a particularly fateful one--again in New Mexico.
The High Cost of Uranium in NavajolandThe biggest expulsion of radioactive material in the United States occurred July 16, 1979, at 5 a.m. on the Navajo Nation, less than 12 hours after President Carter had proposed plans to use more nuclear power and fossil fuels. On that morning, more than 1,100 tons of uranium mining wastes -- tailings -- gushed through a packed-mud dam near Church Rock, N.M. With the tailings, 100 million gallons of radioactive water gushed through the dam before the crack was repaired.
By 8 a.m., radioactivity was monitored in Gallup, N.M., nearly 50 miles away. The contaminated river, the Rio Puerco, showed 7,000 times the allowable standard of radioactivity for drinking water below the broken dam shortly after the breach was repaired, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The few newspaper stories about the spill outside of the immediate area noted that the area was "sparsely populated" and that the spill "poses no immediate health hazard."
Click here for everything about tailings dams from the EPA files.
copy and paste this link if it doesn't come through: http://www.epa.gov/epaoswer/other/mining/techdocs/tailings.pdf