Four decades after its uranium mining boom ended, the town of Edgemont in southwestern South Dakota remains scarred by abandoned mines, millions of pounds of buried radioactive waste, and persistent human health concerns.
The story of that boom and bust, and the role of a large corporation that mined the land and then disappeared, has been largely forgotten. But its relevance has returned as federal officials consider a clean-up plan, and as a new type of uranium mining operation for roughly the same area awaits permitting.
Will the town, its people and its environment fare better this time? Perhaps, if the lessons of the past are uncovered and heeded. Here, in five parts, is a Rapid City Journal special report on the untold story of Edgemont’s radioactive legacy.
(5) updates to this series since Updated
Four million tons of radioactive waste are buried under a grassy field three miles southeast of Edgemont in far southwestern South Dakota.
Thirty-three years of toil in Edgemont’s uranium industry have blurred together in the memory of 87-year-old John McKnight.
In 1980, the Brafford family of Edgemont learned their house, or the land around it, was probably giving them cancer.
EDGEMONT | The two officials from the EPA sat across from each other at a table in the Edgemont City Hall, and they waited.
Experience has taught Donald Spencer to be skeptical about a proposal to mine more uranium in the Edgemont area.