Science for Decision Making on Uranium Mining in Arizona

Cultural Resources: Addressing Tribal Concerns

Regional Studies

Pinyon Plain Mine (formerly Canyon Mine) offers a unique study opportunity. It is located on a traditional cultural property in close proximity to tribal sacred areas and cultural resources. Also, the mine is still under development, without ore production, so it offers the opportunity to establish pre-mining baselines, and will then permit study continuation throughout active uranium ore production, and into closure and reclamation. Three small pilot studies focused on the effects of mining on cultural resources are planned near Pinyon Plain Mine (formerly Canyon Mine):

Effects of mine shaft ventilation on airborne contaminant levels:

  • Use air samples to evaluate particulate matter exiting the mine shaft at multiple distances from the mine.
  • Results will provide preliminary information about contaminant loads due to mine exhaust as a function of distance from the shaft vent, and allow determinations of risk for humans and cultural resource contamination.

Effects of ceremonial burning of vegetation on airborne contaminant concentrations

  • Evaluate the potential for inhalation exposure to mining-related metals in smoke particulates when culturally-significant vegetation species are burned during Native American ceremonies.

Survey of mining-related metals in ceremonial and food items

  • Survey ceremonial and food items for mining-related metals.
  • Results will provide a pre-mining baseline for metals in pine nuts, pinyon sap, elk tissue1, and other cultural resources collected at different distances from the mine.



Specific Tasks

Task 5a: Compile/evaluate existing and newly collected monitoring data from various agencies/sources
Task 7a: Conduct species surveys
Task 7c: Collect/analyze samples from biota with focus on trust resources


1 Cleveland, D.M. and Hinck, J.E., 2021, Elements in elk tissues harvested in pre-uranium mining and non-mining areas, 2019: U.S. Geological Survey data release,

Principal Investigators

Danielle Cleveland
Supervisory Research Chemist
Columbia Environmental Research Center

Kate Campbell-Hay
Research Chemist
Geology, Geophysics, and Geochemistry Science Center


USFS logo U.S. Forest Service (USFS)
Srnl logo Savannah River National Laboratory

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