Inland Northwest History Moment: Uranium Fever
One night in 1955, with help from a black light, Spokane tribal members, Leo Bruce and the LeBrett twins, discovered uranium on their reservation. In the early 1950s, the U.S. government was paying premium prices for uranium, a key ingredient in nuclear weapons, sparking a nationwide fever of exploration.Tribal members partnered with Dawn Mining Company to operate this Midnite Mine; Dawn wasone of only two domestic companies that mined ore in crystalline host rock. Dawn also constructed a yellowcake processing mill in nearby Ford, Washington– close to transportation and easily accessible for private ore deliveries. Nearby, they incorporated a town patterned after Colorado’s Uranium City, with a gas station, beauty shop, community well and modular homes for potential new workers. But local residents supplied adequate labor, and Uranium City closed in less than a decade.
For more than 25 years, the demand for uranium fluctuated with government policies and stockpiles – and by 1982 Midnite Mine and Dawn Mill had closed. The mill’s contaminated structures, soil and tailings are now buried into deep evaporation ponds, while Midnite Mine remains a Superfund cleanup site.
Spokesman-ReviewJune, 5, 2011 “Spokane Tribe members worked gladly in uranium mines”http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2011/jun/05/i-watch-them-die-young-and-old/
Spokesman-ReviewNov.21, 2013 “Cleanup…”
Instruments used at Dawn Mining Company’s uranium processing mill in Ford, Washington.
Geiger counter, c.1960. Museum Collection 4046.2
Radiation survey meter, c.1960. Museum Collection 4046.5
Ore Evaluator Probe, c.1960. Museum Collection 4046.8
Colorimeter, c.1960. Museum Collection 4046.9
Fluorimeter, 1955. Museum Collection 4046.13