In the 1940s, WWII and Cold War politics created a push to speculate and mine uranium for tremendous profit. Between then and the early 1980s, over 500 mines were dug into the Reservation. The film explores and maps where much of the mined uranium surfaced.
Scenes unfold in trading posts selling yarn from sheep raised in contamination zones, Mme Curie’s laboratory, nuclear storage facilities, glass and ceramics museums with glassware that glows under black light, MRI machines, decommissioned nuclear bombs, mining disposal sites, nuclear reactors, contaminated waterways, and the bodies of people contending with radiation poisoning and Navajo Neuropathy (a genetic mutation linked to radiation poisoning).
Demon Mineral unearths the history of uranium extraction on indigenous land and also shows the work of Diné scientists working to make safe the spaces sacred and significant to them, spaces made dangerous by irresponsible mining practices. The work of generations of activists pushing the government to clean up the United State’s worst nuclear disaster is traced, as well as the data collection of scientists unearthing contamination and bringing it to the government’s attention. There are water delivery workers, on whom those who live on contaminated water tables rely, as well as elders fighting for Superfund designations so the mines on their family farms can be remediated.
Radiating” outwards from the Navajo reservation, Demon Mineral explores the imprint of international geopolitics and mineral markets on local communities.