‘Slow Genocide by Uranium Mining’ Charges Amy Goodman’s Guest

‘The road to hell was paved with greed and cavalier disregard for human and other planetary life.’

~ Sensura Utilis

Here is the transcript, if you’d rather read.

‘But this isn’t just an issue for here. Wherever there’s an environmental crisis, there’s a cultural crisis, because we are people of the Earth.’

Now when Ken Salazar announced Obama’s executive order to ban large-scale uranium mining ‘on a million acres near the Grand Canyon’ in Jan. of 2012, environmentalists hailed the move and said it would secure his Green Legacy. Well, sure, but even at the time, there were a few caveats (from the Guardian):

‘The measure does not affect some 3,200 existing mining claims around the canyon, however. The administration said there would be continued development of 11 uranium mines.’

But on April 30, 2013: Yeppers; Oopsie!:

Energy Fuels Resources has been given federal approval to reopen its old Canyon Mine, located six miles south of the canyon’s popular South Rim entrance, that attracts nearly 5 million visitors a year.

The Canadian company says that the Obama administration’s ban on new hard-rock mining over 1m acres doesn’t apply because its rights date from when it closed over 20 years ago.

However, its approval is based on an environmental study the US Forest Service conducted more than 25 years ago, in 1986.’ [snip]

‘But (Roger Clark, also from Grand Canyon Trust) Clark argues that uranium’s radioactive properties only become dangerous once it is brought up out of the ground and exposed to air and water. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, such properties include radon gas, a substance that was not regulated when the government conducted its initial study of the mine in 1986. The lawsuit contends that radon and other chemicals could pollute the area.

In addition to environmental impacts, the lawsuit argues that the mine will harm the nearby area of Red Butte, which is sacred to the Havasupai, one of the plaintiffs, as well as other tribes, including the Hopi, Zuni and Navajo.’

There are lawsuits pending by different mining companies wanting to reopen former mines, and as Benally indicated, any number of agencies and bureaucracies can green light them. But given that the price of uranium is on the rise…there will be a lot of pressure brought to bear.

He’d also mentioned the fact that many former sites were not just ignored for ‘clean up’ by the EPA and state agencies, but now act as actual dump sites. As in:

A local story

Not far to the northeast of where we live, the folks at Grand Canyon Trust and the Ute Tribe have filed lawsuits against the self-same Energy Fuels Corporation’s White Mesa uranium mill near Blanding, Utah, the Utes, whose northernmost reservation is there, has also filed suit against the EPA. It is the sole ‘conventional’ uranium processing mill in the continental US, and the resultant yellow cake is sent out for processing into fuel rods for power plants.

From the Cortez Journal:

‘For every pound of yellow cake produced, approximately 1 ton of still-radioactive processing wastes is left at the mill stored in tailings cells, also called impoundments.

These disposal pits for radioactive wastes are the most significant source of Radon-222 from uranium mills, according to legal documents filed by Grand Canyon Trust.

“Airborne Radon-222 atoms emitted from these tailings impoundments attach themselves to airborne dust particles and . . . can travel many miles before decaying,” documents state. “People breathing air downwind of tailing impoundments then inhale the radioactive dust.”

According to the EPA’s Citizens Guide to Radon “there is no safe level of radon — any exposure poses some risk of cancer.”

But wait: as far back as 2004, from the High Country News (with photo), writing about the same damned mill at White Mesa:

Drumming up business

The Energy Fuels Corporation opened the White Mesa Mill in 1980, and, floundering in bankruptcy, sold it to the International Uranium Corporation in 1997. With the uranium industry hanging by a thread, IUC turned to alternate feed for new business, touting its recycling services as an environmentally superior alternative to direct disposal. Some yellowcake is extracted, but most of the material winds up in the mill’s outdoor disposal cells.

In 1997, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) granted the company an amendment to its license so it could accept uranium tailings from a former mill in Tonawanda, New York. In 1998, the state of Utah appealed that amendment, arguing that the NRC should set a minimum concentration of uranium content for a waste source in order for it to be deemed alternate feed.

And since 1997, International Uranium has processed more than 300,000 tons of radioactive waste from California, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Illinois and Canada. The mill’s opponents — a growing coalition of Utes, Navajos, environmentalists and local business owners — may soon get a stronger voice in how the facility is regulated. The Utah government, which has criticized the operation in the past, is on track to take over regulation of the state’s uranium mills from the NRC this spring. While the state plans to impose stricter groundwater monitoring standards at White Mesa, it will probably continue the NRC’s weak policy on alternate feed. But state control would allow more public access.’

Did the agencies refuse further permits? I really don’t know.

And as it turns out, the Hopi ‘nuisance lawsuit against Arizona’s Snowbowl has attained standing, and will be heard.  But nothin’ says fun! like skiing on shit snow, eh?

Hosteen Benally had mentioned the Church Rock uranium leak disaster, which was the largest  nuclear accident in the US, according to the Wiki, surpassing even Three Mile Island. And yet, then Governor of New Mexico, Bruce King, refused the Diné’s request that he declare it a natural disaster, thus blocking both immediate and long-term aid for the affected population (oh, they were mainly First Americans, of course, including Hop and Zuni as well), and delaying mitigation. And as Benally said, what mitigation has occurred, has been shabby and ineffective by any sane standards. ‘Mitigation’ being the operational term; ‘rendering safe’ is impossible of course, considering water in rivers, aquifers, contaminated soil…and human and animal health devastations, often for generations.

But on to Benally’s  point about corrupt tribal officials selling tribal resources to The Devils, having read the underlying news on my recent thread on the Lakota, Black Hills, and Uranium, sent me this ‘surely you jest stunner’ from the Dec. 26, 2013 Navajo Times:

In the crowded chapter house of Chilchinbeto Tuesday, Council Delegate Leonard Tsosie used enough persuasion to get his peers from the Resources and Development Committee to pass a legislation that grants Uranium Resources Inc., access to its private properties to conduct an in-situ uranium recovery demonstration project in Church Rock, N.M.

“This is not a resolution to directly authorize uranium mining,” said in his opening remarks to the RDC.”

Well, that makes it okey-dokey, Hosteen Tsosie; who greased your palm?

(For a description of InSitu Leaching, watch here; ‘it’s eco-friendly!)

It’s small wonder that we’re not all snarling with your raw power, Klee Benally. But given that the Wasichu/Bilagáana are beginning to have to eat some of the same shite First Americans have been served for centuries, more of us will be soon. No, ‘no winners when we destroy Mother Earth’; you said it right.

(cross-posted at My.firedoglake.com)

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