As with all other mines, a uranium mine would generate disturbances caused by the mining, milling and road transportation activity. These disturbances and changes in accessibility of the mine area certainly have the potential to affect wildlife species.
In addition, there would be specific concerns related to the presence of uranium and other potentially toxic substances. For example, airborne dust could be dispersed and fall on soil, plant leaves or water bodies. If this dust contains radioactive elements or heavy metals, these can be taken up through the food chain. Animals may also be exposed to radioactive elements and toxic metals by feeding, drinking or bathing in contaminated run-off water in ditches, holding ponds, or the tailings pond. In certain cases, there can be a concentration of these elements in some species so that the concentration is higher than that of the soil or water. Animals may also breathe contaminated dust or radon gas that could affect the health of the animals. The degree to which a uranium mine could affect the health of wildlife, either through radioactivity or through chemical toxicity, is difficult to predict. The health effects on peoples consuming traditional food is equally as difficult to predict.
The Eastern Athabasca Regional Monitoring Program (EARMP) is a joint, long-term environmental monitoring program established in 2011 to identify potential cumulative effects downstream of uranium mining and milling operations in the Eastern Athabasca region of northern Saskatchewan. The EARMP community sampling program includes testing of water, berries, fish, moose, and barren-ground caribou. To date, the evaluation of the traditional foods data shows that most chemical concentrations are below available guidelines and similar to concentrations expected for the region. Note that during the time that this data was collected, there were no major environmental events or failures due to technological or human errors and that many years of data collection are necessary to fully evaluate the health risks over time.
Norman Patrick Brown shares his concerns about environmental exploitation on Navajo Nation: