The Office of Legacy Management’s (LM) Defense-Related Uranium Mines (DRUM) program had a busy 2022, conducting inventories of 332 mines, submitting 215 verification and validation (V&V) reports, and facilitating 276 safeguarding projects.

DRUM 2022 field Season

DRUM team members conduct verification and validation work at an abandoned mine during the 2022 field season.

During the March-December field season, DRUM teams conducted work in the Navajo Nation, at the Pueblo of Laguna, and the Spokane Indian Reservation in eastern Washington, as well as on Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service and state lands in Colorado, South Dakota, and Utah.

The DRUM program is a partnership between DOE, federal land management agencies, state abandoned mine lands (AML) programs, and tribal governments to verify and validate the condition of mines that provided uranium ore to the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) for defense-related activities during the Cold War.

“We could not have successfully completed the 2022 field work without the superb cooperation and collaboration of our partner agencies, over the many months of preparation prior to the field teams’ mobilization in March and throughout the 2022 field season,” according to Mine Team Supervisor Gordon Clark. “Another major factor in the success DRUM enjoyed over the 2022 field season is the professionalism, ‘Can Do’ attitude and enthusiasm of our LMS partner and specifically the DRUM field teams.”

DRUM teams kicked off fieldwork on tribal lands in 2022. In the Navajo Nation, the DRUM team collaborated with the Navajo Nation Abandoned Mine Lands Department and the Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency to conduct V&V of 13 mines. At the Pueblo of Laguna, the DRUM team worked closely with the Environmental and Natural Resources Department (ENRD) and the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer to complete V&V of three mines. On the Spokane Indian Reservation, the DRUM team coordinated with the Tribe to assess two sites.  

Most abandoned defense-related uranium mines are located on public lands. DRUM completed V&V on 332 sites in 2022 across eight states, on BLM land, U.S. Forest Service, state lands, National Park Service units and tribal nations. Over the course of the year, DRUM partnered closely with 18 BLM field offices in four states, 12 national forests in five states, one national park, one national monument and two tribal nations.     

Safeguarding efforts in 2022 comprised sites in Utah and Colorado. In Utah, cooperative efforts between DOE, the Utah Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program (UT AMRP), and the BLM Moab Field Office led to 77 closures in the Kane Creek area and 24 closures in the Yellow Cat area. The safeguarding work in Colorado included DOE partnering with the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety (CO DRMS), BLM Uncompahgre Field Office, BLM Tres Rios Field Office, and Freeport-McMoRan to complete 170 closures in western and southwestern Colorado.

In addition, partnering work between the DOE, CO DRMS, U.S. Forest Service, and private property owners resulted in five more closures completed on Colorado’s Front Range.

Over the next few months, Clark said, the DRUM field teams will rest, reconstitute, and get ready for the next field season. This is an important part of the process as each field season presents unique opportunities and challenges. DRUM teams use the time out of the field to work with LM’s partners to identify obstacles and make plans to address those challenges and maximize opportunities.

“Looking ahead, in the 2023 field season, the DRUM teams will start to work their magic in more geographically separated sites, across six additional states, all the while continuing to methodically execute the work in the Navajo Nation and wrapping up the final few, and hardest to access, sites in Colorado and Utah,” Clark said.

“It will be a challenging season, but I’m confident that, with the outstanding support of our partners, the DRUM team will continue to set the standard for field verification and reporting of abandoned mines across the federal government,” he said.